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Saturday, December 25, 2010

This is what Christmastime means to me..........

Jan 1, 2011: I'm Linking this to
 The Lettered Cottage's A few of My Favorites: Blog Posts 2010

(This is a repost from last year, but since I was very new at that time, I'm posting it again for the holidays.)

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it seems it's ever so easy to lose site of the true reason for the season. The reason there is a Christmas at all. I was going to talk about how frustrated I am that Christmas has become more of a commercial holiday than a spiritual one, how it seems to have become all about getting everybody what they've asked for, and less about why we celebrate the holiday to start with, how when I talk about it I must be politically correct in my choice of words in hopes that I do not offend anyone. But, I won't go into that today.
Today, I want to tell you what Christmas means to me, and my euphoric fantasies of how I hope that one day - some day, any day - that our hearts will finally become satisfied in merely giving value to the understanding of the miracle that is the purpose behind such a special day.
I have had many miracles in my life, and I am so very thankful. I believe in God and I am not afraid to admit it or wear it on my sleeve. He reveals himself to me in my everyday life on so many occasions. His miracles are distributed daily, but many people only recognize them during the Christmas season, because that is when they've been taught to ask for them or look for them. Me? I guess I'm one of the lucky ones because I am able to recognize his movement in my life regularly.

Christmas for me? It's not about gift giving, it's not about the parties, it's not entirely about family. For me, it's about the miracle of Christ, and what he means in my life. It's about a feeling and an appreciation, not about 'things'. It's about knowing that when I miss someone I've lost, that God will let me feel them with me, or send me a memory. It's about knowing that when someone is hurting or in need, that God will give me the ability to extend a hand of provision to that person. It's about knowing that when I myself am in need, that He will make a way. It's about believing that when you pray, there is someone listening, and caring, about even the smallest of things. It's about being able to recognize that you CAN and DO make a difference in other people's lives. It's about knowing that when I ask for a blessing in someone's life, having the assurance that it will be given. It's about the giddiness I feel when I can give to someone without their knowing it. And it's about knowing that God cares enough about me to put people in my path that enrich my life and cause me to be a better person.
I would much rather give than receive during this time, or any time for that matter. I've been blessed in my life, and I've also been broken. I've discovered that it doesn't matter where you are in your life, you still have the ability to be a blessing in someone else's. There have been many times in my own life when I've felt the push to do something for the benefit of someone else that I may not even know. All I know is that doing good makes me feel good. I believe that God has put people in my path to test my willingness to be a servant. I can only hope that I have done what was expected of me.
Let me tell you of what I think are a few of these instances where I was being tested.

One time, me and a friend were driving in downtown Denver. On the sidewalk there was a large man with an oxygen tank who had a handmade sign strapped to the front and back of his body. The sign said "My wife and I are disabled and desperate to keep our home. We need $386 tomorrow or we will have to move into a shelter. Please, can you help?" We sat there at the light, both reading this man's sign.

 Now let me tell you, in a big city like Denver there is someone on every corner asking for money. I usually avoid them, and so does my friend, but for some reason we both felt like we HAD to help this man. As the light turned, I pulled all of the bills out of my wallet, gave them to my friend and told her to run and give him whatever I had. She grabbed her purse and jumped out of the car while I pulled up to park along the street and wait for her. In my mirror, I could see her getting money from her own purse, and they were talking and he hugged her.She ran back to get in the car. She said "Polly, you're not going to believe this. Guess how much we had between us? $400!".

Did it hurt to give away that much money? Sure, but only for a little while. Turns out he had to use what money he had for a new medicine for his wife and wasn't able to pay his rent.

I thought about that man and prayed for his family several times through the night.That wasn't MY miracle, it was the man's on the street, but God used us an instrument to make his miracle happen.
The next day, I closed one of the biggest jobs of my career, one that I thought had gone by the wayside many months back. Who do you think orchestrated that?
Another time was very similar. I was at an intersection and there was an amputee in a wheelchair with a sign that said "Hungry and broke. Please help." I thought I'd test him to see if he'd really accept the food without asking for money. I had just come from a drive thru and still had not opened the bag. As I pulled up to him, I rolled down my window and told him I had a hamburger combo if he wanted it. He said he hadn't eaten since the day before and he'd love it. I handed him the bag and the coke and drove away.

As I got to the next red light, I saw him in my rear view mirror raising his hands in the air and bouncing in his wheelchair like he was signing praises to someone. I thought, boy, he must have really been hungry.

A while later, I was at a store in the line to pay for my purchases. I went to get my cash, and then I realized it...........I had given a $100 bill at the drive-thru so I could get change, and they put my change in the bag! The bag that I had not opened before I so willing gave away my food. No wonder that guy was so happy.

A few days later I saw that same guy somewhere else. I rolled down my window to say something, and before I could, he instantly recognized me and thanked me profusely. I could tell he was genuine in his appreciation, so I said nothing except to wish him a good day. I can only hope he used the money wisely.
Yet another time, someone very close to me was struggling at Christmastime, and she couldn't afford to buy anything for anybody, even cards. I wanted to help her but she wouldn't accept it. After praying for some relief for her, all of a sudden I just knew what to do. My husband and I ran all over town buying up gifts cards for various places, and several of those food type gift sets that are in all the stores this time of year, and a gift sets of pretty cards. We bought a wicker laundry basket and loaded it up. We shrink wrapped it, wrapped a bow around it and plotted our delivery.

We parked down the road from her house late at night and waited for all of the lights to go out. Once everything was dark, I sneeked up in the yard and placed the basket on the door. I put an ornament in the basket that opens up, and I requested that in trade for the basket, I wanted her and her son to each write on a slip of paper something they were thankful for that year and place it in the ornament. I typed out a note explaining to her that they should open that ornament each year and read their previous entires, and add to them.

She immediately called me the next morning to tell me she could not accept the basket. I played dumb and swore I had no idea what she was talking about. I asked her to tell me about it and what was in it. She started to tell me and I pretended to get excited about it. She asked who I thought might have done it and I told her that if God had put it in someone's heart to help her out, she shouldn't question his choices, and should just make good use of what he prompted someone to give her.

Turns out, she used the gift cards to purchase things for other people for gifts, she gave away a few of the food sets, and saved the popcorn and cocoa sets to share with her son while they watched Christmas movies at night.

She often talked about that Christmas and how it was the best one she ever had, and that it proved to her that God indeed answered prayers. For several years, she would share with me all of the things she and her son had written on their paper slips and put in their ornament. She never knew who gave her that basket, and never questioned it again. She has passed on now, and I feel sure she smiled down on me when she realized it on the other side.
I could tell you stories like this for days, but I'll share one last one with you before I end this post.

I was fairly new to a certain church years ago, and had only barely gotten to know some of it's members. There was one in particular that I had grown fond of, whose signing stirred something in my soul that was unfamiliar to me. You could feel the power of his words and his voice in everything he sang.

There was one time I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about him. I felt like I needed to get out of bed, get down on my knees and pray for him. So I did. The next night, the same thing happened.

The following morning I felt as if I needed to call him and tell him what had been happening, and the specifics of what had been put in my heart. It was the strongest urge I've ever had to act on something that was eating at me. I kept telling God, "I feel like you want me to tell this person what you're sharing with me, but there's no way I can go to someone I barely know and say these things." I felt as long as I let God know I couldn't do it, he'd call on somebody else. For those of you who know how God works, you already know this didn't fly very far at all.

The third night, this happened to me again. And the fourth night. Finally I told God that if I woke up with it baring down on me again, that I would call this person, tell them what was happening,, and make myself look entirely foolish.

The next day, I still couldn't shake it. I finally realized that, whether this was from God or not, it wasn't going away until I talked to this person. So, I got out the phone book, looked up his number and dialed. "Hello so and so, I'm sure you don't know me, but I have something I feel like I need to tell you." I already sounded half out of my mind, and I was sure he wasn't impressed. To my surprise he was very receptive and listened to every word I said as I babbled about what had been happening to me in the middle of the night.

After a bit of crying on both our parts, he said it was time for me to listen to what he had to say.
He began to tell me how for 4 nights he had been on his knees praying for some answers from God, and wondering why he wasn't feeling what God wanted from him. He said he was begging for clear answers.
I knew right then and there that if you feel a strong urge to intervene in someone's else's life, that it's most likely God's urging. I also realized that my stubborness to oblige held up the answers God was trying to give this man. I learned a hard lesson about being a faithful steward that day, and made a great friend in return.
I had no idea what was going on in this man's life, and certainly didn't feel like I should be telling him the things I did, but when I finally got up the nerve to go to him, he helped me to see how God works in one person's life to affect another.
There have been numerous times that I've walked past someone and felt the need to go back and say something to them, and I have. It has always been recieved well, almost as if they were expecting it, and perhaps they were. I don't question it anymore.

Many times I've felt something tell me to give someone a $10 bill, or pay for their meal, or tell them I didn't know what was going on in their life, but I wanted them to know that I would pray for them.

 Everytime we donate coats in the winter, there's that little voice telling us to stick a little money in the pocket.

I once even felt like I was supposed to hug someone I didn't know and had never seen before. This was a scary one, but I actually did it. The woman asked me why I did it and I told her I just felt like I was supposed to. She started crying and told me a few things that had been going on in her life, and said "I just told God I only wanted someone to care. I guess you're that someone. Wow, God really does listen."
I'm sure that made her day as much as it made mine.

I've always believed that you never know when you're entertaining angels or when God is testing the person he made in us. I try to do good, and be good to others as much as I can. It doesn't require any effort to be nice to someone. Are you mindful of what you say to others, how you treat them? You truly never know what's going on in another person's life, and how what you say or how you treat them can affect their day or their confidence. Let's all try to be better servants, regardless of who we serve. Let's all try to make a difference in someone's day or someone's life. Let's do it, not just say it. Tell someone why you care for them, not just that you do. Tell them what makes them special, not just that they are. Offer to help whenever you can, and mean it.

Teach your children to compliment others and say nice things to them. Teach them that what you say DOES have an impact on people's lives. Teach them that just because another child doesn't have all the things they might have, it doesn't make them any different inside. Teach them to have basic respect for other people. Teach them that life isn't all about what you have and how much you accumulate, but more importantly about what kind of person you are and what you do with what you've been given.

God's word says that "To whom much is given, much is expected". That means something whether you believe in God or not. Do good things and surround yourself with good people and the rest will fall into place. I truly believe that. I believe you draw to you what you are. If you're a negative person, then you'll continue to draw negativity into your life. And, if you're positive, positive things will follow you.
Choose to be postive. Choose to create positive little ones that will grow up and be positive adults. Let's all do our part to make this world turn back on it's positive side.

I'll be back in a few days to tell you about a few miracles in my life. I thought I would discuss it today, but I had no idea this post would take on a life of it's own, and I feel it is more than long enough to suffice for a few days. Miracles deserve a post all their own.

May you feel the love of the season in your heart and share it with others!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baked Caramel Champagne Pears - Delicious!

Are you looking for a quick dessert for you holiday meal?
Here''s something quick and easy, and DELICIOUS.

I've never taken a picture of mine so I had to borrow something similar from the internet.
I found this image at Well Being.

Super Easy.
All you need is a few pears, a bottle of champagne or white wine,
(apple cider if you're serving them to the kids), a small bag of shelled pistachios,  a bag of caramels, and a wee bit of milk.
(Personally, I use Reisling because I love the flavor.)

Peel your pears and leave them whole, put them in a large bowl, and then empty the bottle of wine in the bowl.
Cover and refrigerate. Let marinate for about 2 hours.

While they're marinating, put your bag of caramels in a small sauce pan and melt over low-medium heat.
When they've started to melt, add about 1/8th a cup of milk. Stir until smooth. Set in refrigerator.

Put the pears on a cookie sheet. Pour any extra wine in the bottom of the pan.
Bake for about 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and drain any excess liquid from the pan.
Spoon the caramel over your pears from the top. Don't worry about being too careful because it's going to melt and drizzle down the pears anyway.
Bake for about 5-8 minutes.

At the same time, you need to prepare the pistachios.
Put your pistachios in a baggie and smash them with a hammer, rolling pin, or coffee cup.
You just want to break them up a bit, like baking pecans.
Put those on a separate cookie sheet.
When you put the pears back in the oven, put the nuts on the rack furthest away from the heat.
(You don't want them to burn, so keep an eye on them.)

When the pears and the nuts are done, remove from oven.
Scoop up the nuts with a spoon and shake across the tops of the pears while the caramel is still warm.

Serve in a bowl with a bit of ice cream if you want.
I serve them in a bowl and put a little maricino cherry juice in the bottom for color.
They're Fabulous.

Let me know if you make some. I'd love to know what you think.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Christmas Mantle

As many of you know, I moved this year to be closer to my family. 1300 miles closer to be exact.
This is the first year we've lived close enough to family to be able to host a holiday at our house for my side of the family. Sooo, we're having Christmas at our house this year! Woohoo!
I love Christmas!
I think I've told you that a time or two. :)

Anyway, I've been rushing around trying to get the house ready. Every year, when we aren't traveling and I do actually decorate, I tend to do Christmas on the formal side.
This year, I've decided to get back to my country roots, and do an outdoor scene on my mantle.
It's taking some getting used to, but I think it's growing on me.

I'll show you a few pics I've taken along the way.
You'll only see my mantle right now because, well, because that's the only thing I have done so far.
And yes, I DO know it's the 21st! (oh lord help me!)

I'll fill you in on my decor when I'm done, but for now, I'll tell you that the tree branches and pine cones you see came from the very first live Christmas tree we planted in our yard when I was a kid. That was in 1975. I remember my mom and dad planting it that year. It was a big deal for us kids. 
Yes mother, I loaded my car with your yard scraps when I left the other day. :)

There are more memories attached to the mantle, and I'll share those with you in my next post.
(I've already tweaked the bottom part of the mantle after I took these pictures.)
The pictures make it look kind of skimpy, but I assure you that it is quite cozy in person.

I believe I'm actually starting to get in the holiday mood. Tonight I'll be cranking up the Christmas music, popping a bottle of wine, and decorating the tree while hubby sits on the couch and reminisces with me over Christmas' past.
I think that's the part of Christmas I love the most!

Monday, December 13, 2010

He Knows Our Needs - An Inspirational Post

I received something in email today, and being fitting for the season, I wanted to share it with you.

Those of you who know me, either personally or through this blog, know that

I have seen prayer change circumstances in lives where it seemed there were no solutions to be had, and
I have been the receipient of answered prayers many, many times myself.

Before I share with you what I got in my email, let me remind you of the following story.

Do you know the story in the bible of the widow's oil?
 (2 Kings 4) 
The widow's husband died leaving debts that had to be repaid, and creditors were coming to take her sons into slavery in order to repay the debt. Her husband had been a servant of the prophet Elijah. She sought out the help of Elisha, another prophet. She was a woman of great faith, and told the prophet that she didn't want to lose her sons but didn't know how she would pay the debt.
Elisha, the prophet, asked her what she had in the house. She told him she had only one pot of oil.
(In those times, oil was used for cooking, healing, and making soaps and shampoos - so it was a necessity.)
Elisha told her to go into the village and borrow all of the jars and containers she could, and bring them back to her home. When she returned, he told her to start filling the jars with what little oil she had.
She began to fill the jars, and one after another, her oil continued to flow.
At the end of the jars, she told Elisha there were no more, and suddenly her oil ran out.
Elisha told her to go out in to the village and sell all of the oil, pay off her husband's debts, and then use the rest to live on for her and her sons.

Her faith saved her sons and made provision where she thought there was no way.
.....Oh what a little faith can do....

The story above is what came to mind when I read this email today.

The Grocery List
Louise Redden, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store..
She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries..
She softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work, and they had seven children and they needed food.
John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store at once.
Visualizing the family needs, she said: 'Please, sir! I will bring you the money just as soon as I can.'
John told her he could not give her credit, since she did not have a charge account at his store.
Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family. The grocer said in a very reluctant voice, 'Do you have a grocery list?'
Louise replied, 'Yes sir.' 'O.K' he said, 'put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries.'
Louise hesitated a moment with a bowed head, then she reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed.
The eyes of the grocer and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down...
The grocer, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, 'I can't believe this.'
The customer smiled and the grocer started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not balance so he continued to put more and more groceries on them until the scales would hold no more.
The grocer stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with greater amazement.
It was not a grocery list, it was a prayer, which said:
'Dear Lord, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands.'
The grocer gave her the groceries that he had gathered and stood in stunned silence.
Louise thanked him and left the store. The other customer handed a fifty-dollar bill to the grocer and said; 'It was worth every penny of it. Only God Knows how much a prayer weighs.'

What a touching story!
Our God is a god of provision my friends! He knows ours needs even before we do.
I can't tell you how many times I've prayed for one thing only to get another. It took a while for me to realize that what I thought I needed didn't fit into the plan He had for me. You see, he was already waiting for me at the end of line before I ever started the walk.

I'm not sure why I felt so compelled to share this story, but I do know that many of you, myself included, are dealing with some difficult situations in your life this year, and I just wanted to be able to say that no matter what you are facing, it only takes a little faith to fix it.
There truly is power in prayer, if only you'll believe.

And, I also wanted to encourage you to think about the needs of others.
If you HAVE, and you know others who HAVE NOT, then please, try to think of a way to help if you can.

There will be many children who will go without this Christmas. Can you help with even one gift?
How about taking some of your kids' old toys down to a woman's shelter, or a homeless shelter.
Or taking a small bag of canned or boxed food to the food bank.
Are you donating coats? Gloves? Socks? How about tucking a few dollars in the pocket or inside the glove or socks. Imagine the surprise on someone's face when they put their hands in the pockets!
Do you have little ones in daycare? Ask the teacher if there are any families that need help with gifts this year.

One of the things I like to do is buy a portrait package for someone who can't afford it. You can buy them at the Walmart photo place for about $20. Some people never have the luxury of a family portrait.

I also like to buy those gift sets, like the cocoa/tea/coffee ones, and give a free movie rental certificate with it.

Little things mean a lot to people who have nothing.
 I'm on a mission to make everyone remember that, and to do something to help.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season!

Let me know in the comments if you've been able to do something to help someone else this year, or what you've encouraged your children to do for others.
If you aren't commenting, then I'm gonna worry that you aren't performing angel duty! :)


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Decorating Inspiration from Around the Net

I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season.
Have I told you that I LOVE Christmas??
Well, I do, and one thing I enjoy most about it is the decorating.
It's the one time of year when my house colors fit right in with the holiday decor.

In my late night web browsing sessions, I've come across several things that have me inspired - almost, alllllmost - to drag all of my Christmas decoration boxes out of the storage room.
(Almost I said. Don't be looking for an overnight explotion of Christmas decor in my house to show up on the blog though, cause it probably won't happen this year.) 

And, I'll just add that I have discovered that my tastes are changing. My love of tomato reds and charcoal black and soft golden tans seems to be turning into a love of chocolate browns and deep creams.
A peek through my inspiration files has reveled this clearly to me, so, there may be some new decor on the horizon in my next home.

Oh, we were talking about Christmas, weren't we?

Anyhoo, here's a few pics I found that appealed to me in one way or the other.
Credit is given where credit is known. If one of these pictures is yours, and the credit is not given, let me know and I'll link you properly.

................In No Particular Order...............

(Reference not found)

 Barb Garret at Grits & Glamour
I see this treatment on chandeliers a lot, but I love it over the mirror like Barb has it here.
(Love her home and holiday decor. Her home is featured in the current issue of Country Woman. A Must See!)

 Country Living maybe? Personally, I have it labeled as 'Christmas in my new farmhouse" know, for whenever I find that farmhouse I'm dreaming of. :)

 I think this would be great for the front door.
Saved from last year. Etsy seller pumpkinmoonprims. If you love primitive, look through her sold items.

I really like the simplicity of this.
Found this on Finding Fabulous. Although, I think it was from somebody in a linky party.
Is it yours? 

 Isn't this just the cutest darned tree you've ever seen? That's a lot of buttons, but, I have a lot of buttons, so I'm going to try this one for sure.
Found on FLICKR, user jackie.bonette

 I'm seeing these all over blogland this year. I'm going to make a few of these too.
This one is from those fabulous inspirational gals at Shanty2Chic.

 I think this is a great idea. We all love decorating ladders, don't we? Prop this one up on a tree by the driveway, or even against your mailbox for an instant welcome to your guests.
Found this at Things I Love.

 Whoever thought of this is brilliant. I love the way this looks, plus, it'll feed the birds all winter long.
Found this at Calfinder.

....and so was this person.

I will definitely be making these. Yall know how I love anything with cute buttons on it.
I labeled this as "Art Tutorial Blog", but can't seem to find that blog again. 

I like the look of how simple, yet pretty, this is. The Dollar Tree has some fabulous snowflakes right now if you're in the market for them. 
Found at Martha Stewart.

 Love this! Red and white is so pretty when done right, and this homeowner has definitely done it right.
Not sure who the home belongs to, but I found this picture at the Christmas Home Decor blog.

 I want to fall asleep on this couch while listening to Ertha Kitt Christmas music.
Perfection in my opinion.

 Another brown and cream room I really like. Simple Elegance.
Found at Singaso.

Sarah Richardson move over cause I'm moving in! I LOVE her new house!! Every single room of it.
Can't seem to find the actual website for her. Does anybody have it? I can find everything concerning her, but not actually hers.

 Normally, anything so boldly glittered would not appeal to me, but for some reason I kept coming back to this picture. Maybe it's because it's red and white. There are a lot of elements in this mantlescape but it doesn't read as too busy, and I like that.
This is from Rate My Space user RXSL.

Now how smart is this? Now I know what I can do with all of my lone strands of garland.
Clever indeed. If you see this on my door one Christmas and think I copied yours, well then, I probably did. I'm tellng you now so you'll know when you see it.
Found at Sew Many Ways.
(and by the way, while you're over at her blog, look at her sewing room. Oh My! It looks like a room staged for a magazine, yet she works in there! Seriously, go see it.......I'll wait on your to come back.:))

And last but certainly not least, is one of my very favorite ideas. Those birds actually look like they're hanging those ornaments.
This is by Rate My Space user wishingforacottage.

I hope these pictures inspire you to jump off the couch and go decorate right this minute!
Have you started or finished your holiday decorating yet?


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