Friday, November 30, 2007

Confession Time

Have you ever lived in a home where you just didn't feel like you were "at home?" Well, I have a confession to make... I don't feel at home in my home.

It's a traditional home from the outside, but contemporary on the inside. It's quite contrary to my style, and as much as I try to stay within the style of my current contemporary home (decorated with an "Italian" or Pottery Barn feel), I find myself dying to go back to the style of the first home we ever owned.

I loved it. It was so... ME. It was unique, it was charming, it was a sweet bungalow-country-cottage-garden styled home. It had walnut trim around all the windows, door frames, and floor boards. The doors were all original 6-panel walnut doors, and the windows were original, hand-blown windows with the old pulley system. The house had wonderful angled ceilings, the powder room was tucked under the staircase, it was very bright, very airy, and ... very small. And old. Which is one of the reasons we moved away from it. It required a LOT of maintenance, because the house was all wood on the outside. Paint, paint, paint. Chipping, peeling paint. Another reason is because it was RIGHT on a main road, and if we had children, we didn't feel like it would be a safe place for them to play. And boy, was I right, considering that my child likes to dart into the middle of the road at any given moment.

The house was located in a small historic town. It had a charming front porch, German wooden shingles for siding, and a lovely white picket fence around the front yard. The town was originally founded in the late 1700's. The home was originally built in the late 1800's, and burned down in 1920. It was rebuilt around the original foundation with an addition off to the side. It had two outbuildings, one being a garden shed, and the other was an historic barn. My mom had painted pretty murals on the walls in several of the rooms. It was decorated in a French country style mixed with shabby chic. It was my style of home, and I really miss it. Did I mention ... I LOVED IT??? And, it was ADORABLE?

But, while the house was adorable, it was also cold, drafty, lacked in insulation, and was a money pit for us. We sold it, made a good profit, and purchased our current home, which had been on the market a while because it needed a lot of work. My husband, family and friends poured their hearts into this home. They did so much work, and it's beautiful... it's just not "me." I've tried so hard to "make it me," but to no avail. Don't get me wrong... I'm comfortable in this home. Very. And I'm extremely grateful... I am just feeling a bit blue, and missing my old home right about now.

I keep looking around and I think to myself... the Christmas tree would have looked PERFECT in our living room ... IN OUR OLD HOUSE. And, the bedroom was such a good size ... IN OUR OLD ROOM. And, I wish I had the view we had ... IN OUR OLD HOUSE. But, while it was charming and adorable, it was riddled with problems, and it became an albatross around our necks. So, now ... we've been in our new home for 4 years, and I'm just out of place. I don't have the money to redecorate, but the decor is very nice, and there really isn't a need. I'm just feeling restless, and ... well, out of place.

I know this is silly, but I share all this, only to ask ... Has anyone else felt like that? What have you done to make yourself feel more "at home?"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Traditions

*Updated below with a new Jesse Tree Link for Rocks in my Dryer*

Momrn2 at My Quiet Corner has invited us to share our family Christmas traditions as we welcome the Christmas season in. Even as I sit and write this, our family traditions are forming in our hearts and minds. You see, my husband and I waited a long, long time to have a child. Fourteen years without a child had passed, but when Hunter was born, we suddenly found ourselves taking a really hard look at how the world celebrates Christmas.

For years, my heart's passion had been giving gifts at Christmas. Many gifts, to be exact, but while I did enjoy giving gifts, my true focus on the meaning of Christmas never changed, because without Christ's birth, I would not have had the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life, the gift of grace, nor the gift of forgiveness. But still, I would get as excited as a child would, if not more. I love giving people things, but more than that, I love seeing their faces as they open their gifts.

But now that we have a child, I have found that we are spending a lot more time and effort into establishing traditions in our house that actually hold value (yes, more value than a purchased gift). You see, my husband enjoys giving and receiving gifts, too. But he would rather go without gifts, and he would rather place all our time, effort, and true focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Because I love my husband with all my heart and soul, and because I love that he is my soul mate, I enjoy finding small ways to make him happy, and I have found that it has led to my questioning the ways I've done things for a long time... in other words, this year, I've tried to pare down the gift giving, and the flurry of preparations, and find small, but meaningful ways that our family can focus in on Christ throughout this season.

One tradition we will begin this year has actually started a lot of preparation on my behalf, but will lead into 25 nights of reflection, family devotion, scripture reading, and prayer that will be carried on year after year. It is a tradition that I picked up from a dear internet friend of mine, Shannon from Rocks in my Dryer. Last year, Shannon shared with us how her family enjoys a Jesse Tree in THIS POST, and THIS POST, and she shared some insight into this beloved tradition in her family. In THIS POST*, she shared her own ornaments. I have spent part of last year, and part of the past two months studying various Jesse tree devotion books and websites. I have taken devotions from several sources and compiled my own Jesse Tree Devotions with the symbols and stories that take us through the Bible from the beginning of time, through the birth of our Savior on a child's level of understanding. Each night, we will read a story from the Bible, like the story of creation, the story of man's first sin, the story of how King David was chosen, the Ten Commandments, the stories of Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Joseph and his coat of many colors, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, and many more.

Each ornament is a symbol that represents the stories that we'll read. I made the majority of the ornaments using stickers, scrapbook die cuts, paint, fabric, wood, felt, or Sculpey UltraLight Clay. I placed most of them on wooden plaques, and tomorrow, my husband will drill holes on them and I'll add ribbons to tie them on to the tree. Some ornaments I purchased, like a crown for King David, or a Star of Bethlehem for the prophesy of a child being born in Bethlehem. And then for others, I combined items, like a wooden dowel painted gold and glued to a beaded tree ornament to make a scepter for the story of Esther or plastic wolf and lamb figurines that I glued onto a piece of wood. Some I even made out of sculpey clay, like the stones for the ten commandments, a rams head for the sacrifice God gave Abraham in place of Isaac, or a Rams horn for oil for the anointing of a king. It was truly a labor of love on my part. Each ornament will be wrapped in tissue, numbered according to each night's devotion, and placed at the bottom of the tree. Hunter will be able to open one ornament each night and hear a story that will capture his attention, his mind, and his heart. My hope and prayer is that my son will grow to love this tradition. (pictures at bottom of post)

I began another simple tradition last year. I was facing a dilemma ... a toddler + a Christmas tree full of ornaments = sure disaster. So, I made ornaments from cookie dough. I loved how they turned out so much that I've decided to continue keeping my Christmas tree decorations simple and as home made as possible. This year, I'll continue the tradition by adding to my collection of homemade and simple ornaments with homemade applesauce and cinnamon ornaments. I know Hunter will enjoy rolling them out and cutting them with cookie cutters.

Another simple tradition that my husband and I started even before Hunter was born, is that we give our neighbors each a small homemade gift on Christmas eve, with a special note attached to it. Last year, we gave out boxes of homemade cookies. The year before that, I made chocolate cherry bundt cakes. This year, I'll probably pass out homemade Ice Cream Toppings. It's a small gift, but the meaning of generosity and love carries more weight than the actual gift we give.


Finally, I have discovered that our child is captivated by all the Christmas decorations outside. He loves the lights, and loves to touch many of the decorations. We have always kept our decorations to a minimum, with white lights on the bushes, and a lit tree on my front porch. Last year, I added a lit snowman. This year, I was inspired to create a simple outdoor nativity scene that Hunter could touch without fear of it breaking; a nativity scene that could be put outside year after year. I painted faces on various patio pavers, and used fleece to create simple gowns. I added some sparkly foil trim on the angel, and made the baby out of a wooden egg wrapped in white fleece, and placed it in a plastic container (weighted down with marbles) filled with raffia. I really like how it turned out. I know the neighbors and passing cars wont really be able to see the details from the street, but I wanted to spark their curiosity, and encourage them to come to the door for a closer look, and maybe even ask me about it.

Those are some of our new family traditions that we've started this year. The preparation for these items, along with my personal challenge of paring gift giving down and focusing our hearts and minds on the true meaning of Christmas has placed me in a wonderful, reflective mood, and has readied my heart for the celebration of our Lord and Savior.

For more Christmas traditions, I encourage you to go to My Quiet Corner and check out the others that are participating in this little carnival. But mostly, I encourage you to take a really hard look at your family traditions, and possibly, start something new this year that will help your family focus their hearts on Jesus.

Jesse Tree Ornaments:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Wish List



*Updated on 11/30/07 to add: I found this sign and fell in love with it... it would look so nice over our doorway for friends and family to see as they leave our home, but best of all ... it's on clearance! Love it! $9.99 at the DaySpring online store!



Yes, I know ... This is a special, unusual-to-my-style post, but it's really just for my husband, and the hundreds of people who are asking him what GiBee wants for Christmas. Yesterday, he asked me no less than four times what he could tell people that are asking him what I want for Christmas. And if that sentence made any sense to you, could you explain it to me?

I had a hard time coming up with stuff. I know it sounds like a cliche, but all I really want for Christmas is my husband and son to be close to me, seeing the joy on their faces as they open special little gifts I've picked out for them, and food. I do love me some food.

Anyway, I searched the crevices of my brain, which in fact, are very deep, very cavernous, and, well ... dark. Here is a list of my "TOP TEN Gift Ideas for GiBee" that I came up with, which took me for.ev.ah. I'd also like to hear from you ... what do YOU want for Christmas? Because I could use some ideas for myself!

GiBee's Top Ten Most-Wanted Gift Items for 2007
(not in any particular order or desire)

1. Here's an odd item that I pulled out of no where. Not true. I actually saw it on someone elses blog, but I can't remember who. It's a Gorillapod Flexible Tripod for $21.95. It's a tripod for your compact digital camera, and it "doesn't require an elevated flat surface for you to take the perfect shot." I totally want that. You know, for all the "professional shots" I take for my blog. It's an un-selfish request, really ... because I'm just thinking of you... my reader.

2. I love to cook, and I love to collect cookbooks, but lately, I noticed that I have cookbooks that don't really "fit my personality" -- if there's such a thing -- and therefore, must be purged. So, here are three cookbooks I would LOVE to have along with the new and used prices (I would gladly take a used copy): Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis ($21.45 at Amazon; used: $14.88!); A Taste of Home Baking Book ($19.77 at Amazon; used: $16.50); The Taste of Home Ringbound Cookbook ($29.95 at Amazon; used: $13.45)

3. I've always wanted my own little herb garden. This one, an Italian Herb Garden Kit is particularly adorable and affordable at $12.95 or a terra cotta planter, peat pellets, seeds for chives, basil and oregano, and a recipe booklet. I also like this little cardboard growing container for cilantro ... my favorite herb of all. It's only $5.69!!

4. On a practical note, I'd love to have a cover for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer (for a 5-Qt bowl & lift Professional model). It's $29.99 at the KitchenAid store, but ... I'm not picky!

5. A subscription to A Taste of Home magazine would be a lovely gift at just $14.98 for a one-year (six issues) subscription! And, while we're at it... a renewal of my subscription to the Hallmark Magazine would be perfect! I don't know how much it is, but it's somewhere around $15.

6. I would cherish... cherish, I tell you ... receiving any of the following Janette Oke DVDs: (in order) Love Comes Softly ($11.99); Loves Enduring Promise ($11.99); Loves Long Journey ($11.99); Loves Abiding Joy ($14.99), Loves Unending Legacy ($17.99).

7. I love this Steel Name Key Holder at $24.95, although maybe instead of just my last name, it could say... "(insert my last name) Family" or something like that.

8. On another practical note, these snow shoes from Lands End for $49.50 sure would hit the spot! They aren't the most beautiful shoes one could find, but they would keep my feet warm and dry when I go to work.

9. Toby Mac's Portable Sounds CD ($10.99) would be a lovely gift to help get the blood pumping in the mornings!

10. Last, but most certainly NOT LEAST, my absolute favorite thing to get at Christmas would be an original Lisa Leonard sterling silver, "Mini Open Circle Necklace," Hand Stamped with Hunter's name for $48. It comes on an 18" sterling ball chain with a fresh water pearl (although, I would prefer a 20" chain). It is not the one I have pictured below, but it's close, and if you email Lisa Leonard, and tell her "mini open circle necklace, she'll know what to do. Her email is: lisaleonard@integrity.com

Well, honey ... there you have it. A list of things I'd love to have.

So ... what do you ... the readers ... want to get for Christmas? Leave me a comment with your great ideas -- I may have to adjust my list a little!!

WFMW: Shout Color Catcher Sheets

It's time for another weekly "Works for me Wednesday" tip, sponsored by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer! Be sure to head on over and check out hundreds of other tips!

This is a dreaded laundry tip, but in all honesty, it's a good one. I HATE it when I put one of my sons new outfits into the wash and the color runs all over everything. HATE it, hate it, hate it. I have many clothing items that started off with white shirts and just a touch of red here or there, only to have that "touch of red" bleed all over the white and turn it into PINK.

That is... until my dear girlfriend "A" shared a wonderful tip with me, which I now pass on to you. Shout Color Catcher sheets.

Shout Color Catcher sheets by SC Johnson are dye-trapping cloths that you throw in with your regular load of laundry. Mysteriously, they manage to absorb and trap any loose dyes that can stain your clothes.

The sheets are about 7 inches square, and are a little bit thicker than a normal dryer sheet. When you take them out of the box they are white, but after you do a load of laundry they soak up the dye and usually end up pink, or a dingy purple-gray or dingy blue-gray (depending on the colors of clothes I washed). One even came out completely beet red -- I put a new red shirt I got for Hunter into a load of his colors. I really didn't think it would run, because it was a normal, every-day long-sleeved polo type shirt I got at Target, but sure enough. Beet-red color catcher sheet = saved load of laundry. SCORE!!!

They are so simple to use ... you just throw one sheet into the washing machine with your laundry. That's it! You can use your normal detergents and other laundry products. I usually forget to take it out of the wash when done, and it ends up going through the dryer, too, but that's okay. They are dryer safe.

The sheets work equally well on all fabrics, at all temperatures, and with all laundry products. They currently come in a box of 24, and run around $4.00 per box. I.LOVE.THEM.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Things going on in my home...

After 14 years, you would think that a dog had the right to retain her original name. But, that was all before an un-named child entered her life. Kelly, my 14 year old Maltese, was at one time the sweetest, most patient dog I have ever seen... but again, that was before an un-named child entered her life.

Now, Kelly has become a 14 year old, incontinent, grouchy, snarly, snippety old dog who has a new name ... goo(d) gul (the d in good is silent), or ... "good girl" in adult language.

And did I mention that this un-named child loves to torment lavish "goo gul" with hugs, kisses, petting, tapping, head-rubbing, nose-tickling, belly-hugging, hair-licking lovins? Yes, my child licks the dog, and he also tries to drink her water and eat her food... let's move along ...

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Something else going on in my home... Saturday evening, we went out to dinner with some friends and family to celebrate my birthday ... and really, I'm loving being "in my forties" ... but when we came home, our neighbors all had their beautiful and sparkly Christmas lights on. Blues, whites, reds, greens ... Hunter was truly transfixed. My mom (who wears glasses) was in our guest bedroom with Hunter, and he had pulled a pillow over to the very edge of the bed so that he could lay his head down while he watched the lights. My mom (did I mention she wears glasses) was patiently pointing out the images that were placed in the yard across the street from us... and she was showing my son where Jesus was. I had just walked into the room, and I glanced across the street and turned back to my mom in a wee bit of confusion. I asked her, "mom, where are you seeing Jesus?" And she pointed across the street to a huge blue and white blow-up that the neighbors had. She said, "right there... see it? It's an odd nativity, though." To which I had to burst out in laughter, because the "nativity" she was "seeing" was actually a family of Polar Bears. Oh, my word ... we had a good laugh!

Personally, I think if I can save the money, I'd like to put THIS NATIVITY out in our back yard (which can be seen from the main road), but until I can save the money for it (fortunately they are out of stock), I'll settle for my painted paver nativity (I'll share more on Thursday).

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Other going's-on... yesterday, my husband pulled out our outdoor decorations. I spent the afternoon putting up white lights on our bushes, and putting together our lit-snowman. It looked puurtee. The funny thing is... Hunter spent the entire afternoon with me outside while I tested the lights and hung them, but when I went out later to hang my wreath up, he came out with me, and when he rounded the corner of the garage and saw all the lights (it was dark by this time), he inhaled sharply and said... "Oh! Oh! Oooooo! Yites! Tree! Yites! MIIIIIINE!" Yeah, he's learned the word MINE. It's really lovely. Worry not. I've informed him that while he's living under my roof, he will actually own ... nothing ... and all things will be MINE. He laughed. And repeated... "MINE." Ha. Ha. Funny guy. I'm sure the MINE saga will continue.

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Stuff Going on in the Blogosphere... Make sure to mark your bloggy calendars and join my friends in their Holiday Celebrations!


November 29th -- Share your family traditions! Join Momrn2 over at My Quiet Corner to share your special Christmas traditions! A lot of ideas will be shared, so bring a pen and pad of paper, too! I plan on participating, and I hope you do too.




Boomama is hosting her very special, annual Christmas Home Tour! Yay! It's so exciting. Anyway ... If I don't feel particularly motivated, I will probably just provide a link to last year's decorations, because really ... I haven't fallen into a pile of money -- meaning: NOTHING'S CHANGED. But I can't wait to see what YOUR house looks like! So, do share!



Shannon from Rocks in my Dryer has her very own Bloggy Giveaways blog... where she -- you know ... GIVES STUFF AWAY! Right now! What a great way to get something for Christmas ... FREE! So go! Try it out!

Christmas Giveaway 2007 SweepstakesSpeaking of giveaways ... those crazy twins at 5 Minutes for Mom are at it again ... HOW DO THEY DO IT? both with new babies to boot! They are giving away a LOT of fun stuff, and you really don't want to miss the opportunity to enter your name in one or ALL of their giveaways! Go visit them and sign up!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And you thought I forgot!!!

Well, I didn't. I have just been so bogged down with ... life. Doctor-visiting-parent-visiting-turkey-eating "stuff."

But finally, here are the winners of the Homemade with Love Giveaway. I drew the names and the prizes in the old-fashioned way ... names on little pieces of paper in one bowl, prizes on pieces of paper in another bowl.

Becky: Scripture Journal Starter Pack
Shalee: Kisses of Sunshine Music Collection on CD
Tammy & Parker: Snowman Paver
Barb at A Chelsea Morning: Picture Ornament Kit
Tons of Sons: Peppermint Ice Cream Topping in Snowman Tin
Robinz Nest: Scripture frame in blues and browns
Erin: Gingerbread Man Paver
Beth: Christmas Scripture Frame

There you have it! The rest of my homemade gifts are just that ... gifts!

As soon as I get everyone's addresses, I'll pop these prizes into the mail ... along with the other giveaways that I have waiting to go out.

Thank you all for participating, and I pray you have a joyous time as you prepare your hearts, homes and families for the Christmas season!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

I pray you take a moment to thank the Lord for all he's done for you, for all the blessings he's given you, for all the times he's given you light for darkness, for the times he's taken your sickness and healed you, and for the moment when he took your sin and shame away. This has to be one of my absolute favorite songs, and I was so happy when we sang it ... the very last song ... at church this past Sunday. It really is an anthem in my life... "
With a grateful heart, with a song of praise, with an outstretch arm, I will bless your name. Thank you lord, I just wanna thank you lord..."

I've put up a link for this song in a You Tube video, but it is poor quality, and it's cut short and has some some background "talkers" ... but at least you can hear the song if you've never heard it before.

So ...
from my home to yours ... have a blessed Thanksgiving, enjoy your family, and enjoy your day!



Thank You Lord

I come before you today; And there's just one thing that I want to say
Thank you lord, Thank you lord
For all you've given to me; For all the blessings that I cannot see
Thank you lord, Thank you lord

With a grateful heart; With a song of praise; With an outstretch arm; I will bless your name; Thank you lord, I just wanna thank you lord; Thank you lord, I just wanna thank you lord, Thank you lord

For all you've done in my life; You took my darkness and gave me your light
Thank you lord, Thank you lord
You took my sin and my shame; You took my sickness and healed all my pain
Thank you lord, Thank you lord

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Little is Much...

Have you ever felt like you just didn't measure up to the Billy Grahams of the world? How about those gals from Women of Faith? When you share your faith, are you as funny as Patsy Clairmont, Lucy Swindoll, Marilyn Meberg, Thelma Wells, Anita Renfro? Are you as Biblically sound as Beth Moore? Are you as eloquent and bring people to tears like Karen Kingsbury? Can you lay the scriptures out like Max Lucado?

Did you ever feel like you just weren't making a spiritual impact in your personal world, or in the global world that you thought you would? Or thought you should?

A month ago, at our women's retreat, we did an exercise that truly shocked me and opened my eyes. We made a list of all the loved ones and dear ones of the women at the retreat that weren't saved. Can you guess how long this list was? I'm sure you can imagine... it went on for two pages, and I know we only skimmed the top of the list of names on people's hearts.

I am blessed beyond measure that my spouse is saved, my family members are saved, and most of my friends are saved. But many of my co-workers and neighbors are not. And when I saw how many women in my church have loved ones that aren't saved, it truly broke my heart. I know that I am not an evangelist. I accept that I'm not a renowned author. I acknowledge I'm not a Biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I know full well that I'm just another ordinary wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend that is trying to make an impact on my small world, but it frustrates me that I can't make MORE change.

I mean, seriously ... wouldn't it be great if we could have all these people in one auditorium, with Patsy Clairmont as the opening act to "warm them up," and Beth Moore to bring home the message of salvation? That would be awesome! But reality? Not so much. They're pretty much stuck with me! The "not-so-funny-not-so-eloquent-not-so-entertaining-wife-mom-daughter-sister-friend."

But you know what? That's what it's all about. Yeah, it would be great if Max Lucado would mow grass with my neighbor-dads and present them with the plan of salvation. And, Wowza! It'd be wonderful if Anita Renfro could sing the scriptures to my neighbor-moms and bring them all to the Lord. But, the fact is, they have me, my husband, and my son. Christ lived out on a daily basis.

I was listening to the radio this past weekend, and I heard a song that really struck a chord in me. It is performed by a Canadian group called Downhere, and the song is called "Little is Much." Here are the lyrics (I hope you find them encouraging):

What is the measure of a life well lived, if all I can offer seems too small to give.
This is a song for the weaker, the poorer, and so-called failures.

Little is much when God's in it, and no one can fathom the plans He holds.
Little is much when God's in it, he changes the world with the seeds we sow.
Little is much, little is much.

Who feels tired and under-qualified; who feels deserted, and hung out to dry.
This is a song for the broken, the beat-up, and so-called losers.

Consider a Kingdom in the smallest seed; consider that giants fall to stones and slings. Consider a child in a manger; consider the story isn't over. What can be done with what you still have.

So just in case you're thinking to yourself ... what's a "not-so-funny-not-so-eloquent-not-so-entertaining-wife-mom-daughter-sister-friend" to do to evangelize her little world during the holiday season? I suggest we each start off by taking the first small step of planting seeds. Maybe you could take a loaf of pumpkin bread over to the elderly neighbor, or offer the mom with six kids to watch a child or two or six so she can have a couple hours to herself to relax, or read. You could invite the neighborhood kids over for a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party, or if you want to start off even smaller, you could invite them over for a Christmas party and send the kids home with a candy cane and a scripture attached to it. How about bundling up your family and a couple others and going caroling and handing out candy canes with an invitation to attend your church Christmas celebration attached to it. Or ... if you have older kids, they could start off too. Encourage them to do little things like "rake and run" or "shovel and run." Take over some homemade Hot Chocolate mix and a batch of brownies to a neighbor.

I encourage each of you to begin planning little ways that you can get out and evangelize your small "world." I know I will be out and about, finding little ways to deliver the message of our Lord and Savior, so know that you're not out there alone, and one by one, we will begin to plant seeds. But, whatever it is you choose to do this holiday season... always do it in Christ-like love, try to always attach an encouraging scripture to a card or a package so you get the Word out, and always ... live Christ out every day.

And remember ... a little is much when Christ's in it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, my friend...

Happy Birthday, Kim!

My friend, Kim from Can You Hear Me Now
is celebrating her birthday today. I'm late in posting this, but Kim, Happy Birthday, dear one.

For those of you who don't know Kim, she is a beautiful person, inside and out. he truly loves the Lord, and her writings reflect her inner beauty and love for Christ. She is truly one of my creative and artistic friends ... not just in an artsy-crafty way, but she is truly an artist, and has an amazing ability to create beautiful things from her hands that glorify our Lord and Savior.

She hasn't posted in a long time, and I'm not sure if she's reading this or not, but if you could, please take a moment to hop on over to her place and wish her a fine Happy Birthday!

Smooches, Kim!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gobble Gobble (some good stuff!)

I LOVE Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays. I love the foods, the smells, and everything behind the sentiment of being Thankful, because honestly, we have a LOT to be thankful for.

And along those lines of being thankful, I am ever so thankful for my family, and for the ability to feed them a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. Today, I'm joining in with Karla at Looking Towards Heaven, and many of you, to share my Thanksgiving menu, along with a few recipes and tips. Mind you, I do not always use "recipes" with exact measurements, so a few of my recipes are "a little of this, or a lot of that, or a pinch, or a handful" -- but I trust you will be able to pull it off without any problems! Make sure you check out all the people participating back at Karla's blog!!

Our Delicious Menu
The most tender, delicious marinated roasted turkey ever (yes, it requires more work, but it's so worth it!!!)
White wine Gravy
Cornbread Stuffing with sausage, dried cranberries, chopped apple and pecans
Sweet Potato Casserole
Mashed Parmesan Potatoes
Roasted Broccoli
dinner rolls (Bob Evans frozen ones - YUM)
cranberry sauce
Pumpkin pie
Apple pie
Pumpkin roll

We may add or change a few things here or there, but for the most part, this is our menu.

Roasted Turkey Marinade
Let me start by saying that while this recipe calls for a little more effort than dropping the bird in a bag, it is well worth it. I taught my mother-in-law, who used the bag method all her life, how to cook her turkey with this method, and now, she gets rave reviews from everyone when she serves it. Basting is key, but it's only once an hour, or once every half hour if you're inspired... but you can do it while you fellowship with your family or watch the games and parades all day long.

1 turkey
1/2 ruby red grapefruit
1/2 orange
1/2 lemon
cumin
garlic powder
paprika
Chicken or turkey stock (you can use the giblets, neck, etc. to make your own stock, or just use the boxed stock in the store)

The night before, place your turkey in the roasting pan, and rub the turkey with the grapefruit, orange and lemon juices by squeezing the juices over the bre@st of the turkey. This will make it ever so tender when you bake it the next day. Once you've squeezed all the juices out of the fruit, rub the fruit on the turkey. Pulp is a good thing.

Then, sprinkle the garlic powder and cumin and paprika all over the turkey. I usually coat it really well, then go over it and pat it down with my hands.

Cover the turkey with saran wrap, and refrigerate all night.

Roasting the Turkey
The following morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and drain off the extra juices from the pan. Pour enough stock into the pan so that it comes up 1/4 way on the turkey. Cook the turkey in a 350 degree oven. Baste once every hour or half hour until the temperature of the turkey is 170 degrees. If the turkey begins to brown too much, just tent it with foil. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, just add more. Basting the turkey is essential!!! Once the turkey is done, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest on the stove top or counter for at least 20 minutes so that the juices go back into the meat, and don't run out when you carve it. Keep the turkey covered with foil until you slice it.

Easy carving tip: When you're ready to carve your turkey, cut out each side of the bre@st away from the bone. Place the entire breast on a cutting board, and slice it against the grain.



Easy Gravy
Pour your pan drippings into a sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup white cooking wine. Bring to a boil. Make a "slurry" of cornstarch and cold water (about 1/2 cup water to 6 tablespoons of cornstarch, possibly more, possibly less -- it should be the consistency of heavy cream). Whisk it into the saucepan a little at a time while boiling. Do not stop stirring, or you will have lumpy gravy. Continue adding the cornstarch slurry until you reach the desired thickness you want. Season it with salt as desired.

Cornbread Stuffing with cranberries, apple and pecans
This stuffing is such a nice balance of sweet and savory. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to make, and how delicious it is!

2 7 oz. packages Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
1 medium sweet or mayan onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. finely chopped celery
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
6-8 links raw breakfast sausage, chopped/diced
1 stick butter
1 and 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 can whole cranberry sauce
1-2 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped in small pieces
3/4 cup pecan pieces
3-4 cups (approx) chicken or turkey stock

In a large (family-sized pan) brown onion, carrot, celery, sausage, garlic and cumin in 1 stick butter. Add stuffing mix, dried cranberries, cranberry sauce, apples and pecans. Add 2 cups stock and stir. Taste for salt and add accordingly. Transfer stuffing to a large casserole dish sprayed with Pam. Pour 1 cup stock over. (Can make to here and refrigerate.)

Bake at 350 degrees covered with foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 minutes more.

Roasted Broccoli
1 broccoli crown per 2 people
1/2 cup olive oil (more if you have more than 4 crowns)
6 cloves of crushed garlic
coarse sea salt

In a medium bowl, mix the olive oil with the crushed garlic and set aside. Cut off much of the stems and divide the crowns into chunks. Dip each chunk into the garlic and oil mixture, making sure that chunks of the garlic get onto each crown. Place the garlicky crown onto a cookie sheet lined with foil. When you've done this to all the broccoli, sprinkle it with coarse salt and place in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Check the broccoli by sliding a sharp knife into one of the spears. If it is tender, it is done. If not, continue to cook until knife tender. Do not be concerned if the broccoli starts to brown on top. That's what gives it a wonderful flavor, along with the toasted garlic and salt.

That's all the recipes and tips I have to share today. If you want to try any of these recipes, but have questions, feel free to ask away... just make sure I have your email to reply to (blogger people, see this). Also, let me know what you try, and how you liked it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WFMW: Safe Eggs

Dontcha just love this new button? Me too!!

A special thanks to Shannon from Rocks in my Dryer for hosting Works for me Wednesday. Make sure to check her out, as well as all the excellent tips that get posted!

Today's tip is a huge one for me, although I'm fully aware that it may not necessarily impact your life, as it has mine! You see, we, at casa Sunshine, have a addiction fondness for Caesar Salads. Homemade ones. With lots of garlicy dressing all over it. The homemade original kind. WITHOUT dijon mustard in the dressing thankyouverymuch. And, guess what? Hunter loves Caesar salads, too! Seriously! He's TWO.

Anyway, I worried about feeding him (or us, for that matter) a dressing made with RAW egg. Yet, I'm not one to have a whole lot of time or energy to actually... coddle an egg. So, imagine my surprise when my sister shared that her local grocery store sells PASTEURIZED eggs! You see, it's not the raw egg that gets you sick, it's the untreated shell! Bet you didn't know that!

Well, I thought it was a pipe dream for us, because you see ... she lives in North Carolina, where all sorts of cool, hip, trendy grocery stores abound. But GUESS WHAT? Our local grocery stores have started selling pasteurized eggs! WOOT! Score for the familia. Yes, they are a lot more expensive, but it's worth our safety, as we consume vast amounts of Caesar salad each week. So, look for the eggs with a red P on top. They are Davidson Pasteurized Eggs.

I'm sure you're wondering what my prized Caesar salad dressing recipe is, aren't you? Well, come a little closer... closer... closer...

In a food processor, add 1 raw egg, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon anchovy paste, juice from 1/2 lemon, and one peeled garlic clove (not a huge one ... not a small one ... a medium sized one is perfect). Blend until smooth. Add 1/2 cup olive oil and blend until smooth. Add some freshly cracked pepper, and taste to see if you need to add salt.

In a large salad bowl, toss chopped romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup (to 3/4 cup) additional Parmesan cheese, croutons, and dressing. You can either add sliced grilled chicken, steak, or enjoy as a side with some pasta! Mmmmm.

You can thank me tomorrow, after you've made it ... and for the love of everything good and leafy, do NOT leave out the anchovy paste! It really makes a big difference! I promise it won't taste fishy at all. It will, however, taste very fishy if you put a whole anchovy in there (yuck!).

You can click here to find a store near you.

You can click here for more tips.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's a Birthday! And ... other stuff ...

Today is someones birthday! I'll give you a little hint ... she's so sweet, so thoughtful, so in love with God... she's an awesome mom and wife, she loves strawberries, and while she loves peaches, she hates the color. She adores pink, hates mauve, her signature color is purple, and she loves to collect tea pots. ... Give up? It's Pam (a.k.a. Peach) from Without Fear!

Happy Birthday, my friend!

Hop on over and wish her a great day!

Now ... on to other stuff. Yesterday, around 11:00, I left my job to go get my son and take him to the emergency room. He has a collection of fluid under his incision where he had a cystic hygroma removed about two weeks ago. The fluid build up is about the size of a medium egg, and when I called his doctor about it yesterday, there was only one doctor on call because of the holiday, and they asked us to take him to the emergency room. Now, bear in mind... he's not in pain, he's not too uncomfortable, I only called to alert the doctor. Now, they want us to go to the ER to make sure it's not infected. So, let me recap our day and all the fun stuff we endured.

11:00 - drive home; in-laws drive me to day care to meet husband so we don't have to cars. Daycare is a 40 minute drive.
12:30 - leave daycare and drive to Washington, D.C.
1:30 - arrive at hospital and check into Emergency Room.
2:30 - Wait.
3:30 - Go back to observation room and wait. Pay $50 copay. Nice.
4:30 - Wait. Over hear one doctor talking about an infant who is in the ER that has leukemia and has an infected port. Pray for family, infant, and thank God it isn't our child.
5:30 - Wait. Husband goes to cafeteria and returns with delicious, most outstanding (NOT) sandwich the three of us share. Somewhere in there, two nurses, and one doctor pop in to check out the pocket of fluid.
6:30 - Wait. Somewhere in there, two nurses, and one doctor pop in to check out the pocket of fluid. We're told someone from surgery has been paged, but they had 2 back-to-back traumas. Pray for families.
7:00 - hear an infant screaming, screaming, and screaming from a treatment she is receiving. See mom pacing the floors (dad is with baby), and pray for her and the family.
7:45 - surgeons finally show up and tell us "yes, it's a sack of fluid, it's not infected, come back on Friday to see his surgeon."
8:00 - nurse checks vitals.
8:15 - receive discharge papers.
8:30 - pull out of parking and PAY $7.00 PARKING FEE. Talk about adding insult to injury.
9:45 - pull into driveway and put sleeping baby to bed, crash into our own beds and fall sound asleep.

All, in all, Hunter is fine. He's carrying around a pouch of fluid, and we're gong BACK to D.C. (oh, the joy) to explore the various options we face: leave it alone and see what it does; do a sclerosin treatment (I think that's what it's called), add another drain tube.

We're wiped, exhausted, and sad for our child, but God saw us through. Hunter was an angel -- a total trooper -- all day long. Very well behaved! Praise God!

So, please forgive me if I don't draw the names of the winners for the Homemade with Love giveaway until tomorrow. Today, I've got to catch up on some work, and start visiting the HMWL participants.

Have a great day, y'all, and go wish Pam a happy birthday!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Homemade With Love - 2007

Updated to add: Seriously! Already, the few people that have participated on the Mister Linky have posted the most adorable ideas! You MUST check them out!! All of them! Man, I only wish I had a portion of their talent!

ALSO ADDED: Don't forget to check out Chilihead's Christmas Shopping Carnival today!

It's finally here! My second annual Homemade with Love Gift Idea Exchange! And not only am I excited to share with you some ideas I have, but I'm excited to see all the creative ideas YOU have to share! I promise not to overload you with tons of ideas like last year. I've placed the pictures in a slide show, and if you hover your cursor over the picture, it should stop. You can also go to the instructions page and see all of them. What can I say ... I was just so excited! And last year, I concentrated mostly on home-baked items. This year, I've got mostly home-crafted items to share with you.

If you have a Homemade with Love idea to share, post it on your blog today, then come back and add your name and the link to your post on the Mister Linky, along with your gift idea next to your name (i.e.: GiBee: Snowman Paver). And don't forget... if you participate with an idea on your blog and place your name on the Mister Linky, I'll be drawing some lucky winners for some of my own "Homemade with Love" items tomorrow!

Just a few housekeeping things: You can CLICK HERE for all directions and materials needed for each of these crafts. I'll provide the link again at the end of this post. Also, I've divided this in two sections: Thanksgiving Season Decorating and Christmas Gift Giving Ideas. I decided to throw in a few easy things for Thanksgiving, since last year, I recall that many people were looking for fresh decorating ideas.


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"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
(1 Peter 4:10)
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And, really ... that's what a homemade gift is -- not something that is perfectly made and coordinated, but rather, a little bit of God's grace, like a piece of your heart, that you've taken the time to share with another person.
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Now, without further delay, here we go!

Thanksgiving Season Decorating and Gift Ideas






Thanksgiving Idea #1: Toilet Paper Roll Pumpkins -- I loved the simplicity and affordability of this little decorative pumpkin. Total spent on materials for four pumpkins: $3.29

Thanksgiving Idea #2: Painted Pumpkin Paver -- so easy, so quick, so cheap! Looks great on the front porch steps. Total spent on materials for one paver pumpkin:

Thanksgiving Idea #3: Pumpkin Topiary -- I'm always trying to find "FALL" decorating ideas, and I thought these topiaries were really beautiful, and very easy to make. Total spent on materials for two pumpkin topiaries: just under $45.00, total for only one: $22.46.

Christmas Gift Giving Ideas






The first two ideas came about while we were preparing for our recent retreat at church.

Christmas Gift Idea #1: A Homemade CD Collection -- We gave each lady at our retreat a 4-pack CD with some favorite songs on them. You can choose holiday favorites, Christian contemporary songs, worship songs, secular songs (I love all the Grey's Anatomy songs) ... whatever you want to choose to fit either your personality or your gift-receiver's personality. I have made a 3-volume Kisses of Sunshine Favorites, chock full of my favorite Christian contemporary music and worship music. Total spent for one 3-volume CD gift: $1.77

Variation on idea: You don't have to stick with just music. You can use simple software to create a beautiful slide show set to music with your special pictures of your loved ones.

Christmas Gift Idea #2: A Homemade Frame with Special Scripture: I selected this as the craft for our retreat because it was something that everyone could do easily, it looked great, and was a special reminder of the weekend. It would fit in nicely as a gift to a family member or close friend with their "life scripture" or another favorite scripture verse, or you can make it as a seasonal frame with a Christmas saying on it. The most expensive part of this craft idea is the frame. Total spent on the 11x14" colored frame: $10.99; Total spent on the 11x14" blue and brown frame:$10.99; Total spent on the 8x5" Christmas frame: $9.99

Christmas Gift Idea #3: Hand Painted Pavers: Oh, my goodness, I can't even begin to express the fun I had making these. It all began with a couple ideas in an old craft magazine I had, and when I went online to research them, I found the most adorable pavers which I have shamelessly tried to duplicate. Total spent on Snowman paver: $7.90; total spent on Gingerbread paver: $8.23; total spent on Ladybug paver: $0.00; total spent on Dragonfly paver: $7.73

Christmas Gift Idea #4: Hand Embroidered and Embellished Kitchen Towel: This actually turned out to be a lot easier than I anticipated. I am not handy with an embroidery needle, but if I can do it, ANYONE can!!! Total spent on Kitchen Towel: $6.25

Christmas Gift Idea #5: Garden Stepping Stone: This is a sweet idea for a grandchild to give to a grandparent, and it's easy and fun, too. You can really use your imagination and go wild ... or, you can let your child do it, which isn't as much fun... for you ... but IS a ton of fun for them. Total spent on Stone: $9.54

Christmas Gift Idea #6: Picture Ornament: I love this little ornament. It was so easy to make, and cheap, cheap, cheap. You can make it for a family member (aunts, uncles, and grandparents would love this) or you can select a special picture of you and a girlfriend, or of your wedding day, or of any other special memory you want to hang from your tree! This was such an easy craft item, but I love how it turned out. Total spent on Ornament: $0.76

Christmas Gift Idea #7: Snowman Tin for Goodies: How adorable is this sweet little tin bucket? It's hand painted with a snowman's face, and can be loaded with candy, baked treats, nuts, a plant, the possibilities are totally endless. My own painting skills are shaky, but the point of the gift is that it's homemade ... not perfect. I've loaded it with some fixings for a Winter Salad, and included the recipes on a card. Total spent on Snowman Tin for Goodies: $1.99

Christmas Gift Idea #8: Christmas Sundae Basket: Each year, I give my neighbors a little gift to let them know we're thinking of them. This year, they are getting a simpler variation of this Sundae basket, but this one will be given to a friend. It is filled with a home-made topping, hot fudge (store bought because I ran out of time), nuts, sprinkles, and all the things that make a Sundae yummy! If you want, you could even make some homemade ice cream to give out too! I've put a homemade peppermint sauce, some hot fudge, sprinkles, chopped nuts, white chocolate peppermint crunch, four acrylic bowls, and one ice cream scoop in the basket. Total spent on Sundae Basket: $19.03 (but can be WAY cheaper if you cut out a lot of purchased stuff or get stuff at the dollar store, or more expensive if you put a family movie in it).

Christmas Gift Idea #9: Recipe Album: This gift idea may take a bit more time, but the recipient will enjoy receiving a collection of recipes that are close to your heart. Total spent on album will vary with number of recipes you print out and number of pictures you take and develop, but the album can be found on clearance, and the gift will be a treasure they hold on to for years and years. Total spent on album alone: $13.00

Christmas Gift Idea #10: Scripture Journal: This gift is very economical, but it will provide the recipient a jump-start to learning how to select special scriptures and storing them away. This idea was presented to the ladies of our church at our retreat this past October by the spunky and sweet speaker we had, and I thought it would be a wonderful thing to pass down to your high school grad that's gearing up for college, your engaged child who is beginning their life as a married couple, a shut-in, or even a friend who might be going through a fire and needs some timely truth and encouragement. Total spent on Scripture Journal: $5.20

Christmas Gift Idea #11: Spicy Rub Basket: I love this idea... you make the rubs, pack them up nicely, and share them with your friends, family, neighbors. Fun, fun! Here I've made a standard Beef BBQ rub, my special Pork BBQ Rub, and a Spicy Cajun Chicken Rub. It's going to a very special bloggy friend ... she knows who she is! Total spent on project: $4.50

Complete Directions, Ingredients and Pictures are HERE.

Last Year's Ideas are HERE with instructions HERE

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Homemade With Love Participants
1. Shalee
2. Randi
3. tonsofsons ~ decorative clipboard
4. Robinznest - Candied Nuts and a Cute Gift Bag
5. chilihead (placemat purse)
6. Beth/Mom2TwoVikings (Cmas flowers)
7. Erin (Monogram Ornament)
8. Melissa (beaded serving spoons)
9. Michele (Tin Punched Ornaments)
10. Laurel Wreath (chex Mix)
11. Tons of Sons ~ decorative clipboards ~ right link this time
12. Barbara H. (Personalized Scripture)
13. Cindy (PrairieMousesHouse)
14. Tammy and Parker (Christmas)
15. Tammy and Parker (Thanksgiving)
16. tonsofsons ~ 3rd attempt (:
17. Barbara H. (Soft trees)
18. Michelle (Tin Punched Ornaments)
19. Tammy and Parker (Christmas)
20. Becky (Handmade Note Cards)
21. Barb @ A Chelsea Morning (several things!)
22. TIckled Pink (decoupage Christmas photo frames)
23. SchoolinRhome (ornaments and more)

Powered by... Mister Linky's Magical Widgets.







Friday, November 09, 2007

Homemade With Love -- Coming on Monday!

It's almost here ... Homemade with Love! And I'm so excited I can barely stand it! Except that I'm running way behind with my pictures and write-ups because of Hunter's surgery ... GAH! The pressure is mounting.

Anyway, make sure you all come back on Monday to get great Homemade with Love ideas, and to either participate, or check out the links for those that are participating.

I will be giving away several of my Homemade items in a drawing reserved especially for those that participate with valid Homemade ideas on their blogs, and place their name and link on my Mister Linky.

If you need the code for the button, please email me at kissesof.sunshine@yahoo.com.

See you all on Monday!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What is Gray? What is Black? What is White? What is Light?

Hang with me for a bit ... I'm talking something out, but I'm opening it up for a peaceful, respectful, and Christ-like discussion at the end. Please don't think that I'm pointing a finger to any one person in particular, because I'm not. I'm just talking this out with you, instead of inside my head (because it's not as scary that way). And yes, it's another heavy-duty post. Sorry about that!

Last week, I posted on a pretty controversial issue, and it was difficult for me to hit the "Publish Post" button (and just to answer one person's question, yes, I did trick-or-treat -- until my family all became Christians, and then I stopped trick-or-treating when I understood the true meaning of the holiday).

You see, I am such a people pleaser. I want everyone to love, love, love me, and I want to love everyone in return. I hate arguments, I hate dissension, I hate disagreement. That's why I was so pleased to see very respectful and mature, well-thought-out comments.

But mostly, I hate having to deal with Gray Issues. I would much rather deal with a black issue, or a white issue as my friend Molly says. That way, it's clear. No questions. But sadly, that's not real life. That's probably why I get along so well with my sister-in-law, my friend Molly, and several other of my real-time friends -- because they are so much like me! People-pleasing-why-cant-it-be-black-or-white-and-cant-we-all-get-along people. Why, oh, why, oh why?

Speaking of which, I encourage you to go to Molly's place and read THIS post, because it is so right on!

Anyway, many people lovingly commented on that scary post of mine. Some agreed. Some didn't. And that's okay. I'm not trying to force anyone to believe the same way I do, as I acknowledge that we all have different levels of understanding and spiritual maturity, and I am far, far, FAR from being the sound and completely spiritually mature compass that all should follow! But it did bring to light many questions, and I wanted to toss a few things around and then open it up for discussion to see how YOU feel... without being judged by me, and without anyone else being judgmental, and without cruelty, please. We are all allowed to have and form our own opinions.

When I look back in scripture, I don't see that Christ was a people pleaser. I can't find where he lounged around in "gray areas." He didn't say, "come to me all you who thirst, and I will give you living waters ... if it's okay with you." He also didn't say, "go and sin no more ... if you can find it easy to do." Life would be so much easier if it were all black and white... "I came that you might have life, not death." There. Black and white. Easy, right? Jesus came. If we believe in him, we have life. If we don't, we have death. I can dig it. Love your neighbor as your self. Another black and white moment. Done. I get it. Clear as crystal.

Yes, Jesus ate with sinners, yes, he hung out with the lepers and the unclean. Yes, he hugged you even if your feet were dirty, your hair was greasy, and you were clothed like a beggar -- placing you far from perfection. Granted, he didn't stand outside of a sinner's home and holler in to them to come out and see the light for themselves, either. He walked right in and sat down at the table of the unrepentant without trying to convert them first, and showed them the true light. But he did not just eat with them, show them what a nice guy he was, and then leave ... Rather, he was very clear with them ... "repent - the kingdom of God is near."

And while he did sit down and eat with the sinners, or talk with the unclean, it leaves me questioning a few things: did he participate with pagan celebrations, services and ceremonies? Did he hang out at the local Roman temple and enjoy the fun highlights of their holidays? Did he go to the local gladiator's brawl to hang out with the decadent Romans looking for opportunities to witness? Did he go to the taverns (of those times, so to speak) looking for opportunities to teach his disciples how to avoid those temptations, and yet, how they can use those areas as places of outreach?

See what I mean? Gray areas. Lots of gray areas. Questions. Lots of questions.

Furthermore, Jesus was not always a gentle, quiet, calm man. He caused disturbances. He was constantly challenging the authority of the spiritual leaders of the day, and "bucking" old testament law. In fact, according to old testament law, when he ate with the "unclean" or the "sinners" -- it would make him unclean. But rather, we saw that Jesus flipped the old testament law, and instead of becoming unclean, he made the sinner clean.

I love that Jesus said, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." This made him unpopular with the authorities and religious leaders ... and this very statement makes my job as a Christian very clear. But, I can also see clearly that as Christians, we need to be very careful of what we seek, choose, and accept as light, or "okay." With so many choices and options in front of us, is it possible that sometimes we fail to see that many of them may sometimes be nothing more than Satan's misleading shadows?

Intellectually, I know that celebrating halloween in and of itself will not make a child evil. But I feel like I'm opening a door to my child's mind and heart towards making light of the pagan aspect of the celebrations, while showing him the example that it is acceptable to live of the world, rather than to live in the world. It starts with Halloween, but where does it end? In my small and slowly maturing mind, I am starting to realize that it's not about whether a child dresses up as an evil spirit, a monster, a witch, or an innocent bunny, Raggedy Ann, or Dora the Explorer. It's not about family fun in collecting halloween candy from other houses. Those are not things that will turn your child to all things evil.

Rather, it's about the acceptance of something rooted deeper than family celebrations, and yes, it may be true what one commenter said, that "Halloween didn't hurt ...[people]... the modern day Pharisees did," but I guess what I'm trying to work through is ... where do we as Christians draw the line to stand against things that the world finds acceptable? Is something like Halloween pleasing in God's eyes? Or is his heart saddened by how people choose to "celebrate" it? Wouldn't attending a fall harvest festival sponsored by a church be a better option as encouraging a family function than going door to door trick-or-treating for halloween?

By far ... know that I'm not saying that we should alienate ourselves from the world, but rather, we should be a light to this world. And yes, I feel that we should take every opportunity we can to witness to our friends and neighbors -- in fact, we have been given a direct mission as Christians to invite others to know, love and accept as well as emulate the life of Jesus. But sadly, we do live in a fallen world, where we are surrounded with values that are different than the values we find in the Bible, and Christian values we have been taught, and try to teach our kids. We have to live, work, and raise our children in a culture that is uncertain, at best, and rapidly deteriorating, and I honestly feel that it is critical that we maintain level-headedness and that we are careful of our surroundings if our mission in such an environment is to succeed.

Again, to me, it's not about not wearing scary costumes or not doing scary things. In my mind, it's a given that as a Christian, you would discourage your child from doing those things. To me, it almost feels like I'm not standing out as being any different as a Christian if I am partaking in the same thing the "fallen world" is partaking in. In other words, I'm not being a bright light to this world, but rather, blending in.

You know how I think this works? Sort of like sin ... very, very subtly. As Christians, obviously, we don't condone or accept sinful things like deceit, theft, pornography, etc. We don't set out to rob a bank, or become addicted to pornography, and while there are people out there that do, as Christians, we love the sinner, hate the sin. Right?

But, when we open our heart to a little tiny bit of sin by turning our heads and accepting something for what we want it to be, rather than the face value of what it really is (like adult movies and raunchy books), then it becomes easier and easier to accept other sin without realizing that we are doing it. Why? Because we have begun to neutralize our hearts and minds. Kind of like that little yellow container of Arm and Hammer baking soda does in my refrigerator. It neutralizes the odor, and I become immune to it, and instead of seeking out what is causing the odor and removing it from my refrigerator, I simply open the door, get out what I need, close the door, and go on with life. I'm not saying that celebrating Halloween is sinful. I'm simply comparing how our heart can become easily neutralized the more we accept something that might at first cause us to question it. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit on our side, and it is the Spirit that prompts us through our conscience, and it is the Spirit's involvement that unifies all of our activities so that they lead, and here's the key... to the glory of God.

I don't consider myself a bold person. Nor, do I have all the right answers... I am just trying to do the best I can to raise my child to be as wise as serpents, yet gentle as doves in this fallen world without pulling a veil over his eyes and blindly living life in lala land, completely protected from everything around us, which I can also see as being a really easy thing for me to do. Godly balance is what I'm looking for.

Whew! Now, all I have to say is... and I'm sure this will open a whole new can of worms, but... thank goodness my husband is the spiritual head of our household, because my head really hurts right about now!

So, what are your thoughts? Take some time to digest it all. You can comment on the whole thing, or pick and choose. I'm curious to know how other Christians feel.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Prize Patrol

I am having a tough time reaching the winner of the Christmas bracelet because the email keeps bouncing back to me as "unable to deliver." Now, it's totally possible that the problem is on my end, so I want to give them a chance to get in touch with me.

If you are Claudia (or know her) and left the following comment on my "Fall Y'All! Giveaway" number 3 for the Christmas bracelet, please email me immediately at kissesof.sunshine@yahoo.com or a comment on this post:

1:59 PM
scfranson commented:

You have an amazing blog!
Claudia
scfranson@charter.net

Unfortunately, if I don't hear from you by noon, Thursday (EST) 11/8/07, I'll draw another winner.

Thanks for understanding!

Dad is great! He gives us the chocolate cake!

Remember back in the early eighties (1983) when Bill Cosby came out with his comedy video called "Himself"? My husband LOVES to go around the house saying a lot of quotes from this video, but the one I love to hear the most is... "Dad is GREAT! He gives us the chocolate cake!" It was a bit about how Cosby's kids were rejoicing and singing that one morning because he gave them CHOCOLATE CAKE for breakfast! He justified it by saying that it had "nutritious breakfast foods" in it: wheat, eggs, milk. Bill Cosby didn't want to fix breakfast for his kids because it was so early in the morning ... but he did. He gave them chocolate cake and grapefruit juice, and he didn't have to cook! How awesome to wake up to a big slab of chocolate cake! (I personally, would prefer a tall glass of icy milk to go along with it!)

Imagine, if you would, how excited the kids were when dad gave them chocolate cake for breakfast ... they were singing praises to him all morning and probably dancing around the kitchen table in a child-like manner because their father gave them something special ... chocolate cake. Well, that is until their mom came down and saw what they were eating for breakfast

Well, that's exactly how I feel today. I feel like rejoicing, and running around dancing and waving my arms in the air, singing, "Dad is great! He gave us his healing hand!" Dad -- as in, God. He has given us his healing hand, and he has covered us with a peace that is not known here on earth

As some of you know, Hunter had surgery last Thursday. We didn't have a scheduled time until Wednesday night because they save the early morning times for the sicker patients. Well, last Wednesday evening, we had a message waiting on our voice mail telling us to have Hunter at the hospital by noon, because his surgery was scheduled at 2:20 p.m. -- my heart sank, because that meant he would have to fast most of the day -- not an easy thing for anyone, let alone a 2 year old.

But, earlier that day, I had sent out an email to about 20 of my blog friends across the country and into Canada asking them to pray for my child as he went into surgery, along with my family, and our church family who were praying for him too ... and here's how I saw God's hand moving almost immediately. The very next message on our voice mail was the nurse telling us there was a cancellation, and they could take Hunter in at 10:50 am... totally do-able, Praise God! I didn't even have a moment to think, let alone pray before I found out that his surgery was pushed up. My family and friends were already praying that God's hand would be in Hunter's surgery, even when I was unable to, and he heard their cries and answered them

Then, the next day, when we arrived, we checked in and they told us they would call us in 1 hour. Ten minutes later, they called us back and said they would take him right away because they had another cancellation. That, my friends, was another answer to prayer! The surgery that should have lasted 90 minutes was done in 45. The mass was diagnosed as a cystic hygroma, and has been sent to pathology for studies, but the doctor is positive it's nothing to be concerned about -- another answer to prayers!

And as if that wasn't enough, while I was in the waiting room, I was able to briefly minister to a couple who had their son in surgery for heart issues. They had a pager that enabled them to receive regular updates on their son from the surgery room, and they had been told their son had been placed on a bypass machine. As a parent, my heart went out to them. It melted right there on the spot. As a Christian, again, my heart reached out to them, but for a different reason -- to offer my own support in prayer, as I knew many others were doing for our family. I know it brought that family some comfort as it has brought me knowing that we had so many praying for us. That was an answer to my own prayers of being a blessing in any way possible while we waited.

For now, Hunter has some stitches and a drain tube that will be in until Thursday, but other than that, he has bounced back remarkably. Yes ... ANOTHER answer to prayer!!! Sunday and Monday, he went all day without any medication, and was happy, and active -- Praise God! He has even stopped getting freaked out whenever we change his diaper, and wants to actually look at his wound now (out of curiosity).

His spirits are high, and even ministering to us with his tiny hugs, kisses, and gentle hands on our faces. Answers to prayer all around us -- how exciting!

We are so thankful for family and friends who know a powerful God, and will pray at the drop of a hat. My husband and I have been able to spend comfortable, peaceful time with our as he recuperates, and know that he is being surrounded by the prayers of people I hold close to my heart.

Thank you -- from the bottom of our hearts -- for your prayers, love, care and concern. We love you each very much, and pray that God will send a special blessing your way!

Well, that's about all -- Hunter is home with his grandparents for the next few days so that dad and I can go to work. I will try to get around to my blogs again, and hopefully, touch base with everyone! But until then, please excuse me as I enjoy my "chocolate cake" and rejoice in my son's well being!!!


Friday, November 02, 2007

Fall Y'all Giveaway Results...

This has been a hectic week, so forgive me for posting this so late. My son had surgery yesterday, and he is recovering nicely, so winners ... I'll contact you on Monday, if that's okay!

The winners are...

Giveaway #1 -- The Lord's Delight Bracelet: Denise at Shortybears Place -- and just so you know... I totally support Diabetes Awareness, too and am in the process of designing some quality bracelets for the medical ID tags for children!

Giveaway #2 -- The purse full o' Goodies: Tracy (no blog information, email from cox[dot]net)

Giveaway #3 -- The Christmas Bracelet: Claudia (no blog information, email from Charter[dot]net)

Congratulations to the three of you, and I'm all ready thinking about the next giveaway, and maybe ... just maybe (if there's any interest), we'll have another giveaway closer to Christmas! Fun stuff, I tell you... fun stuff.

Well, I've got to get back to my son. If I have another free moment, I'll post an update on how he's doing, but just know that he is strong, a trooper, and God has SHOWN HIS FACE, y'all!