Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas blessings...

This will be my last post for 2011.  Our granddaughter and her momma are coming today with our grandson, his momma and our youngest daughter following on Saturday.  We get to enjoy them all for a couple of weeks!  Our sons-in-law (great guys!) will come Christmas week and we look forward to spending time with them, as well.

I thought I would leave this year with a Christmas blessing for you all from Numbers 6:24-26, including notes from the original Hebrew.

The Lord bless you, 
( come with bended knee and gifts)
and keep you;
(put a hedge of thorns around you, guard and protect)
The Lord make His face shine on you,
(be personal with you - eyeball to eyeball)
and be gracious to you;
(personally involved)
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
and give you peace.
(destroy what causes chaos)

Isn't that an awesome blessing?!  Count your blessings, enjoy your family and extend to them the grace that God has so richly bestowed on us.  Have a wonderful Christmas and happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Goodness of the living God...

His riches continue to shower upon us year by year,
day by day, and moment by moment.
I dare you to contemplate the power 
and love and goodness of the living God,
to let His love flow over you today,
and not feel a soul-deep joy,
an all encompassing peace,
and a rising courage to face the challenges
that this week brings to your life...
consider deeply whether you can accept this glorious wealth 
without sharing it with as many other human beings 
as you possibly can.

Dr. David Jeremiah

Christmas Recipe - Million Dollar Fudge

This is the best fudge I've ever tasted.  It even won Grand Champion at the Logan County Fair.  When I went to see if I had placed, I found an empty plate and a big blue ribbon.  I guess the judge really liked my fudge!

I'm not sure when Mom started making this fudge, but it's been a staple Christmas goodie for our family as long as I can remember.  I made it for our family as our girls grew and now they are making this fudge for friends and family.  It turns out perfectly every time. The tradition goes on...

Warning:  This fudge is 200 calories per square inch!  It's so smooth and just melts in your mouth. You can consume 1000 calories without even blinking.  I speak from experience...

4 1/2 cups sugar
1 can Pet milk (evaporated)
1 1/2 cups butter
12 oz chocolate chips
2 large Hershey bars
7 oz jar marshmallow cream

Put the chocolate chips and broken up Hershey bars in a bowl.

Combine sugar, milk and butter in a large Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil over medium to medium high heat.  Boil for 7 minutes.  Take off the heat.  Add marshmallow cream, chocolate chips and Hershey bar pieces to the Dutch oven.  Beat until smooth.  Pour into a buttered 9x13 glass pan.  Refrigerate until solid.  Cut into 1 inch square pieces.

Note:  I mix the fudge in my Kitchen Aid mixer.  I put the chocolate chips, Hershey bar pieces and marshmallow cream in the mixer bowl and carefully pour in the boiled sugar, milk, butter mixture.  Turn the beater on slowly and let the mixer do the work.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


It is not merely a free gift,
but a free gift to those
who deserve the exact opposite...
Martin Lloyd-Jones

Grace provides us the free gift of salvation.  That's what's so amazing about it!  We can't earn it.  We don't have to follow a formula perfectly.  We accept it just as we are and then grace changes us from the inside out.  Grace is the gift that keeps on giving!

What are these labeled grocery bags for, you ask?  I came up with this idea a few years ago after a particularly messy Christmas morning when I'm pretty sure some small gifts got thrown away with all the wrapping and tissue papers.  So, now, every year each person gets a paper grocery bag with their name written on it to put their gifts in once they are unwrapped and all the trash goes in a large trash bag.  It also makes it a lot easier for everyone to get home with all their gifts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Empty hands...

Ok, I had all my Christmas shopping done and all the gifts wrapped before Thanksgiving.  And yet, I find that I am still too busy.  What's up with that?! 

I think a lot of days I let myself get too busy to think about God's grace.  I fill my days with activities and ministry and miss out on the blessing of knowing and recognizing this wonderful grace on a daily basis in my life, even though I love to study God's Word and I love it when He speaks to my heart.  I just have to empty my hands of their activity, be still and listen.  He is so gracious! 

God always pours His grace into empty hands.
St. Augustine

Bean Bags for the Kiddos

I have several games for my grandkids to play when they are here that require bean bags.  We've been playing the games with tennis balls and they just would be better with bean bags.  So, I retrieved my bag of deer corn out of the garage and made six bean bags with scrap fabric that I already had.  FREE!!

I cut a 6" square out of printer paper to use as a pattern and cut twelve squares of fabric to make three polka dot bean bags and three red bean bags.  

I sewed the bags on three sides using 1/2" seams, turned them and clipped the corners, filled each one with one cup of deer corn (you can use dried beans), folded in the open edges and sewed each bag closed.  We are ready to play!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Exquisite fragrance...

Ah!  The sweet aromas of Christmas have begun pervading the air!  One of the things I looked forward to most at Christmas, other than the presents, was the goodies to eat.  Some of my favorites were the spritz cookies Mom and I and later my girls and I made.  The green almond flavored Christmas trees with frosting garland, sprinkles and a red hot top were so tasty.  And I could never pass up the cream cheese wreaths with the green frosting leaves and red hot "berries".  My mouth waters just thinking about them! 

It's really a blessing that I can't eat them any more...they are definitely not gluten free.  It saves me a lot of needless calories.  However, I can still enjoy the Million Dollar Fudge at a whopping 200 calories a square inch.  I indulge in moderation as it's becoming harder and harder to keep off extra pounds the older I get. 

Even though I can't eat the cookies any more, I can still relish the sweet smell.  It's gluten free and has zero calories! 

You may be wondering what Christmas baking has to do with grace.  Just like holiday baking leaves a sweet smell in the house, God's grace leaves an exquisite fragrance on people that is noticeable to others around them.

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place 
in one perpetual victory parade.
Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ.
Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance.
Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God,
which is recognized by those on the way of salvation - 
an aroma redolent with life.

This passage is from 2 Corinthians 2 as translated in The Message.  This grace from God is so amazing!  He not only blesses us with his grace, but can bless anyone we come into contact with because of the grace he has poured out on us.  That is powerful stuff!  

Christmas Decor

A couple of years ago, the garland I had put on the mantel for years started looking worn.  So the last few years, I've tried replacing it with various decor.  It just didn't look quite right.  So, this year I wanted to get it figured out and be done with it!  I like using the same decorations year after year, as long as they look good.  I really thought I would have to start from scratch, but I prayed that God would help me find items that would be on sale that would fit in with the nativity theme.  

Seriously, I pray before I shop.  I want to be a good steward of the money God has so graciously provided.  God has delivered every time!

I headed to Real Deals first because I have found some amazing things there that really were good deals.  I found this great hammered silver metal candlestick for $20 and the nativity figurine, as well.  Hmmm...I already had white candlesticks and silver stocking holders.  And since the mantel is right behind the Christmas tree it wouldn't compete with the tree if I decorated it in silver and white.   Finally, a plan!  It only took three

My next stop was Big Lots.  I didn't find anything.  So, I went to Hobby Lobby.  There, I found the silver ball candles for the white candlesticks and a white candle for the silver candlestick.  The next thing I had to find was some kind of garland.  That took awhile to find as most of the garlands were too big or had too much going on.  I found this smaller garland way back in the corner.  It is perfect for the mantel and not too busy.  It also adds just a touch of color above the stockings.  Everything I purchased at Hobby Lobby was 50% off.  When I got home and started putting it all together, I pulled a silver candlestick and a silvery glass ornament from other places in the house to put with the white candlesticks.  Lots of circles going on give it a cohesive look.  Finally, we have mantel decor that I can use for years!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The forever gift of Christmas...

Imagine this scene with me for a moment - a man chooses a gift from under a Christmas tree and gives it to a child who takes it from his hands.  The child excitedly opens the box to find a mysterious but wonderful toy that provides hours of discovery and entertainment.  Then, suddenly, the man appears and takes the toy from the child, declaring that he wants the gift back.  Maybe he will return the toy to the child later.  Maybe he won't. 

Do you ever feel like you are the child and God is the man who takes back the gift of grace?  We do have an enemy who lies to us to confuse us, belittle us and make us feel beyond help.  Satan likes to remind us of the times we have failed and puts ugly thoughts in our minds, making us doubt our Father's love.  But, because of grace - the forever gift of Christmas - God will always love us because He sees us through the blood of His Son.  It's not because of anything we have done.  It is a free gift; one that we don't deserve, but one that is given lavishly and never taken away.  It makes me want to sing:
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord!

Christmas Goodies

I spotted this simple recipe for a Christmas goodie on Pinterest.  It is so easy and quick, yet so yummy!

small twist pretzels
Hershey's kisses
M&Ms (I used plain Christmas M&Ms and Peanut Butter Christmas M&Ms)

Place pretzels on a cookie sheet.  Place one unwrapped kiss on each pretzel.  Put in 275 degree oven for three minutes.  Remove from the oven and immediately press a single M&M into the kiss.  Refrigerate until solid. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Peace on earth...

Peace...this is something so desperately needed in our lives and our world.  And yet, that is exactly what Jesus brought when he came to earth.  Peace is one of the "treasures" of grace that is available to us as God's children.  It is not a "feel better" solution to our worries.  It can't even be understood by the human mind.  But God supernaturally gives us His peace when we do what this verse tells us to do:

Be anxious for nothing, 
but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, 
let your requests be made known to God;
and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Have a peaceful Christmas!

Christmas Stocking Solution

As I wrote yesterday, we have ten stockings hanging on the mantel this year.  That many stocking holders would not fit on our mantel.  So, I wasn't sure what I was going to do until I saw an idea on Pinterest.  I have three silver stocking holders that spell JOY.  So I spread them out on the mantel and purchased an inexpensive silver curtain rod at Big Lots, put the stockings on the curtain rod and used the three stocking holders to hold the curtain rod.  Great solution!  It looks very nice, too, and I have room for at least six more stockings - a future son-in-law and more grandchildren.  Yes, please!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The darkness within us...

Yuck!  Why in the world would we look at something so non-Christmas as darkness, especially the darkness that is in our hearts?!  Talk about ruining the holiday spirit!  Bah humbug!

Yeah, it's not one of my favorite topics, but we need to look at it so we can understand just how wonderful the gift is that God gave us when Jesus came to earth.  It's never pleasant to stop long enough to reflect on our thoughts, words and deeds and agree with God that some or a lot of them are sin.  The Bible is pretty clear that every person who has ever been born has sinned.  All of us.  No exceptions.  Even the perfectionists among us.  And we don't get to define what sin is.  God already did that for us in the Bible.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds; and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them.  But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.  And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Alexandr Sozhenitsyn

Did you know that darkness is not the opposite of light?  It is the absence of light.  Yes, there is darkness within all of us, but God has sent the Light to dispel the darkness and set us free!

In the end, we must acknowledge the darkness within us and the light that comes only from God.  Both are unrelenting, and both define every moment of our life.  Every atom in our bodies is infected by the disease of sin, but every atom may likewise be covered by the grace of God.  The vilest offender can reap the deepest joys of heaven.
Dr. David Jeremiah

That is what Christmas is all about - God sending the Light to earth so we can be truly free from the darkness within us.  Amazing grace!

Christmas Stockings

As our family grows, I have made more Christmas stockings.  Because the stockings I made for our girls when they were little are country style, I chose to keep that style as I add more to our display on the mantel.  It's fun to personalize the stockings, too. Because I was making several stockings this year, I decided to make a new stocking for myself.  The old one was...well, boring!  I dug through my fabric stash and had enough fabric for most of the stockings and only had to buy 1 1/2 yd of fabric.

You will need:
three coordinating fabrics: the body of the stocking, the cuff and the heel and toe patches.
Pellon Wonder Under transfer web (for applying heel and toe patches to the stocking)
buttons or other items to embellish the stocking
ribbon for the hanging loop

Draw your pattern on newspaper or pieces of printer paper taped together. (That is an 18" ruler)
Fold stocking fabric right sides together and cut out two stockings.

You will need to fold the cuff fabric twice - on top and on one side.

You will end up with a piece of fabric that looks like this when you unfold it.

Cut a square of the Wonder Under that is big enough for both the toe and heel pieces.  Cut a square of the fabric for the toe and heel pieces just a little larger than the the Wonder Under. (You don't want to get it on your iron.)  Place the Wonder Under on your ironing board, paper side down.  Place the fabric, right side up, on top of the Wonder Under and carefully iron the two pieces together.  Turn it over and iron on the paper side.  Let cool.  Place your heel and toe patterns, upside down, on the paper side and trace with pencil, then cut out. 

 Carefully peel the paper backing on both pieces, leaving the mesh.  Place the pieces on the front of the stocking and iron in place.

Pin the two stocking pieces, right sides together.  Sew them together, using a 1/4" seam, leaving the top of the stocking open.  Clip the fabric in several places on the curves, being careful not to clip the thread.  Turn right side out and iron flat.

Fold the cuff in half, right sides together, and sew with a 1/4" seam.  Iron the seam flat.  Fold the cuff over in half, right sides out, and put it inside the stocking pinning the raw edges onto the top opening of the stocking.  Sew all around the opening.  Fold the cuff out and over the top of the stocking and iron.

Now for the really fun part, embellishing the stocking.  Pencil on the stocking owner's name, then trace over it with a fine black Sharpie.  I used the end of a small paint brush dipped in black acrylic craft paint to make the country dots on the letters to keep our stockings somewhat uniform.  I've also seen letters cut from felt and glued onto the cuff.  If you have a machine that embroiders, you can use it to put the names on the cuffs.  I have used buttons and other items to embellish and personalize the stockings, too.


To finish the stocking, I added a grosgrain ribbon loop for hanging the stocking.  Firmly attach the loop to the back seam on the inside of the stocking with an X stitch.

We are now up to ten stockings this year!  I don't have that many stocking holders.  They wouldn't fit on the mantel anyway.  I'll show you the perfect solution tomorrow.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Grace and mercy give hope...

It's very common that grace and mercy are used as synonyms.  But, they are different.  God in his great mercy, gave us the greatest gift anyone has ever given - grace expressed through Jesus.  We celebrate his coming to earth at Christmas time and the hope he brings. 

So what's the difference between grace and mercy?  Dr. David Jeremiah puts it this way:

Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac.
Grace provides a ram in the thicket.

Mercy runs to forgive the Prodigal Son.
Grace throws a party with every extravagance.

Mercy bandages the wounds of the man beaten by the robbers.
Grace covers the cost of his full recovery.

Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross.
Grace promises paradise that very day.

Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross.
Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness.

Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus.
Grace calls him to be an apostle.

Mercy saves John Newton from a life of rebellion and sin.  (He was a slave trader.)
Grace makes him a pastor and author of a timeless hymn.  (He wrote "Amazing Grace".)

Mercy closes the door to hell.
Grace opens the door to heaven.
Mercy withholds what we have earned.
Grace provides blessings we have not earned.

Tomorrow we will look at why it is so important to understand why we need grace - especially at Christmas!

Special Gifts

God tells us in his Word that we are to take care of widows and orphans.  There are many opportunities at Christmas to bless them.  Last year we started a new family tradition.  Both of our mothers are widows and we want to bless them and their friends with something that will be fun.  So, we put together Ladies' Night Out Boxes.  It includes a Walmart gift card (they can buy groceries for a dinner with friends or go to a restaurant of their choice with friends), a movie to watch, goodies to eat during the movie and snowflake ornaments so everyone can have something to remind them of the night.  I had black and white gift boxes that I put tissue paper in, then all the gift items and topped it off with a silk poinsettia.  I hope they will feel pampered and loved!

Hmmm... I think I may have to compose a poem to go along with the box.  Won't that be fun?!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hope through God's grace...

We praise God for Christ
and for hope through God's grace
for those who by faith
His salvation embrace.

Maybelle Smith

This is part of a poem written by a former pastor's wife and I like how she connects hope to God's grace.  Before we go any further, I think a definition of grace is in order because we need to understand that which we are learning.  I have discovered that when I assume I know what something means, I miss out on so much of the riches contained in God's Word.  What does grace really mean? If I am a child of God (for those who by faith His salvation embrace), what does grace look like in my life?

Grace - (Vine's Expository Dictionary) "the pleasure or joy God designs for the recipient; thus it is set in contrast with debt, with works and with law...divine favor."  Ok, so I usually connect grace with God letting me off the hook for disobedience, especially those times when I don't do something He has prompted me to do.  I think that is part of God's grace, but there is so much more!  In Bible college, I learned this definition - unmerited favor - which is a shorter version of the above definition.  There is nothing we can do to earn His grace.  It is something He decides to give us because He is good. 

So, when you are out Christmas shopping and a parking place opens up close to the store doors, thank God for His grace.  When you wake up on a weekend morning and it is beautiful, snowy and calm outside and you have time to sit down with a cup of coffee and your Bible or your spouse, be grateful for the pleasure He is giving you.  When you cuddle with a small child whom you love on Christmas morning while Papa is reading the Christmas story from Luke 2, drink in the joy that God is bestowing on you and your family.  Use the opportunity to teach the children (and the adults, too) to be aware of God's grace.  We don't deserve it...He gives us grace because He loves us.

Monday, we will look at how grace produces hope.  

Gift Wrapping

Did you know that you don't have to use "Christmas" wrapping paper and gift bags to wrap Christmas presents?  Ok, I know that seems pretty obvious, but it didn't cross my mind until this year.  Plus, you can use the same wrapping papers all year long without having partial rolls of Christmas paper that don't get used.  It's good stewardship!  

This year, I decided to go with black and white paper and bright green and white curling ribbons.  I also opted to use a bright green and black design paper to make "ribbon" for the boxes I wrapped.  It is cheaper and you can make the "ribbon" whatever width and length you want.  I also watch for wedding supplies to go on sale at Hobby Lobby and buy the big spools of wedding tulle in various colors.  Three to four layers of tulle make a super easy nice ribbon and bow for a package.  If you notice the second picture, the "bow" on top of the package needs to be pulled up and cut shorter to make a nice poofy bow.  I'll get on that!

The guys in my family aren't in to poofy, so I wrapped their gifts a little more simply using the houndstooth paper and four layers of bright green curling ribbon, which I spread out and curled the ends after tying.  I have a bunch of scrapbook letter stickers, so I simply put their names on their gifts.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How sweet the sound...

One of the first signs of Christmas is music - commercials, movies, radio.  I have always loved Christmas music and its accompanying sounds. When else does music include happy tinkling bells?!

This month we are going to dig in to grace.  What does it have to do with Christmas, you ask?  I'm so glad you brought it up!  I think we will discover that Christmas is all about grace...God's wonderful grace.  And hopefully, by the end of December, Christian Christmas music will be the sweet sound of grace in your ears.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found.
Was blind, but now I see.

Gift Tags for Children

All the kiddos that will be at our house for Christmas this year are preschoolers.  The oldest ones recognize their names, but all of them love seeing pictures of themselves.  So, I thought it would be a great idea to make picture gift tags this year for the kids.  They are really easy to make and require white and black cardstock, a glue stick, a printer and your computer.  Pull up a Word document and click on insert.  Go down to picture - from file - then click on a picture that you want.  Copy each picture, one at a time, then paste it on your Word document.  If you click on the picture once it's on the Word document, it should show little black squares on the corners.  You can click and drag to make the picture bigger or smaller.  Once you get all the pictures you want on your Word document, put the white cardstock in your printer and print.  I chose to print in black and white - it fit better with the wrapping paper I picked this year.  You can print in color if you choose.  Just remember that it will take more ink.  Cut the pictures apart and mount on white cardstock, then black cardstock.  You can use other colors of cardstock, if you want.  Have fun with it.  The kids will love them!