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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Update

   Yesterday didn't happen. Well yesterday did happen...sorta. I had to "punt" on my plans and go with an alternate plan. You know how that goes. The Daughter was having a mad dash scramble to complete the paperwork for her LCSW licensure and she took over my computer. In return I took over her daughter, Little One, for 125 hours...or at least that's how long 24 hours seemed. I was sleep deprived to begin with and although Little One is a dream girl, she IS a toddler, and a very active one. I did not get out of my pj's...all day...and then I slept in them again. I did brush my teeth. Once. I combed my hair at 6:30 p.m. Somehow I don't think Little One even noticed. She was too busy. That's B-U-S-Y.
    My daughter came back in the late afternoon to finish compiling her paperwork and when she took one look at me, she said, "Now you know." Now you know...she says to ME. I say, "Hhhharrrumph...I raised four of these, and I point to Little One who is now trying to take the batteries out of three different remotes." The Daughter raises her eyebrow because I have just taken a deep breath. She is bracing herself. I fall back on the sofa as I say, "But the difference is that I was not FIFTY-SIX years old...I repeat...FIFTY-SIX....all the more reason that middle aged women should not do the toddler thing unless God has called them to do so." I collapse in exhaustion.

   I am just thankful that He just seems to be calling me to do this one day at a time. With periods of rest in between.

  Whew.

   Now you know why the promised update didn't arrive. I am spending today recovering, and I am trying to decide how much of the truth I am willing to tell you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Another New Year Rolls Around...

This is a repost from last year. Tomorrow I will give you an update, I promise, although I already feel a bit vexed and chagrined. 

  "I quit coming up with New Year's resolutions a long time ago because I don't think I have ever been able to keep any of the many that I have made. So...I am going to come up with a list of things that I will probably HAVE-TO-DO this year whether I want to or not....
    1.The Dentist. After avoiding this for a whole year (plus probably another year if I am honest), I will be compelled by the fact that I can no longer chew on the right side of my mouth to drag myself to the dentist and allow someone who looks like he is wearing a Hazmat suit put his giant paws into my mouth while he and his friends (he calls them technicians) poke around with all manner of shiny metal implements, scraping my gums raw in the process and looking for all those little corners and crevices where things called cavities love to hide. And somehow I am supposed to not only submit myself to this process not once, but twice each year, and to actually say thank you for taking me to the River Styx and back when I walk out of the office. In addition I also know that I am supposed to encourage my children to undergo this same torment all the while reminding them that they will thank me when they are old and still have all of their teeth. I, however, am not yet ready to thank my mother for introducing me to this heinous form of torture at ANY age. I also think dentures don't sound so bad.
   2. The PERPETUAL DIET. I think if Dante had ever been confronted with a post-modern post-menopausal twenty-first century more-than-middle-aged and aging-not-so-gently woman who lives in the midst of an exceedingly thin and body-obsessed culture, he would have included "the diet" as one of his levels of hell. It certainly is on my list. Furthermore it is never any fun getting on the scales at the beginning of the New Year and realizing you are about six or seven pounds away from Your-All-Time-High. This moment of reckoning comes of course the morning after you have consumed a rich and sumptuous four-course New Year's Eve meal accompanied by all manner of high calorie beverages that tasted good at the moment, but give you more than a pause the day after.
   3. The Cleaning. You know when you open the closet where the washer and dryer reside and can no longer maneuver your way through the detritus of life that has accumulated there to even know what lurks within, and your husband (who does his OWN laundry so you cannot assign blame to him in this area) has a slight conniption fit and asserts that he has had to scale the heights of Mount Everest while simply attempting to change the dryer setting, that some radical form of cleaning accompanied by numerous trips to the dump is more than likely in your near future. You are just hoping that he does not go into any other closets in the meantime because the cleaning might have to commence sooner rather than later and today you still want to be a slug.
     4. The EXERCISE. It's bad when you drive by the YMCA nearly every day and feel a deep desire to duck your head in shame because you pay good money each month for a membership that you hold in name only, but the truth is that you would rather go to the dentist, eat a very fattening and delicious meal with friends (even if you pay for it later) and deep clean your mess of a house than climb on a bicycle, lift a weight, or do anything that could remotely be construed as exercise (unless it involves a fork or a spoon and the last time I checked the calorie counter, using those implements did not even register on the scale). It is not that you don't need to, because point number 2 clearly indicates that you do, it is, honestly the fact that exercise is anathema to you. You seem to be allergic to it. Deeply allergic. But this is the year to begin to expose yourself in small doses to see if you can tolerate EXERCISE without keeling over.

Whew. Just thinking about the dentist, the diet, the cleaning, and the exercise has exhausted me. I think I am going to be forced to comfort and console myself with a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese made with real cream, real butter, real eggs and real cheese and wait until tomorrow....What a realist I am!
Happy Twenty Ten!"

Find out tomorrow how I fared with last year's list and what's going on now!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Time Away and Layaway

   Every couple needs to take some time...for just the two of them. It doesn't have to be an expensive trip, or include a plan to do something exciting. When The Husband and I were younger, we used to do all of our Christmas shopping together on Columbus Day in October...crazy, huh?!  Nope. It was actually a huge budget saver and a lot of fun. Back in the day, we used something called "layaway" to pay for Christmas for our children. We would pick everything out on Columbus Day and make payments every two weeks until we had it paid off. We found it was the only way to survive the "Year of the Bicycle Christmas" which rolled around every so often for all four of our children. We tried the hand-me-down bike thing and that worked for a while, but our kids played hard and rode their bicycles hard so they were usually not in a condition that allowed them to be passed down to a younger sibling.
     Back to Columbus Day--since The Husband worked for a financial institution otherwise known as a bank, we could always count on him having Columbus Day off. Sometimes we would get a babysitter and eat dinner out after shopping and there were even a couple of memorable years when we managed to farm everyone out and get away to a local hotel to spend the night. Those were the best Columbus Days on record for me and were something that I dreamed of all year long.
     It wasn't that I got a lot of rest...because no matter how hard I tried to sleep in, I was always wide awake at no later than 6:30 a.m. However, I still felt refreshed and rested because of the simple fact that I could leisurely drink my coffee in a hotel lobby and read a newspaper without someone hollering, "Mommy," at the top of their lungs at least 100 times before breakfast (okay, that's a slight exaggeration!)
    But as I said, time away from the children doesn't have to be exotic. It doesn't have to be costly. One year dinner out was not in the budget, so on our way back home we stopped at our favorite frozen yogurt shoppe for a treat. As our family expanded, the time away became infinitely more precious and important for me. As a mostly stay-at-home mom, I longed for that time with my husband when we could have an uninterrupted conversation that did not revolve around children's schedules, disciplining issues, trips to the dentist or doctor, or figuring out who needed new shoes.
   Now I have the time. It's just the two of us. We really enjoy being able to sit together quietly in the same room. We don't have to fill our space with conversation. After thirty-six years, we can really communicate without words. It's the nod of the head..."It's your turn to let the dogs in!" Another nod, "Are you sure?" Yet another nod with a firmly raised eyebrow, "Yes, and puhleeease do it now before they scratch all the paint off the door." Then some more eye-rolling accompanied by even more pronounced eye-rolling. And if the chair potato (both of us fall into this category in the evenings) does not move, there will be all manner of body shifting accompanied by loud sighs. The house is empty save the two of us and the two family dogs. It means we have plenty of opportunity now for deep and meaningful communication, can't you tell?!

    Seriously...despite the good and the bad moments, the great and the not-so-great days, the glorious and the difficult challenges, and the divine and the mundane aspects of life here on earth, as believers The Husband and I are still managing, by God's grace, to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal. It's the secret strength of our marriage and it has nothing to do with either of us and everything to do with our great God.
 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Reflection


   I offer today a tender and beautiful poem by Elizabeth Madox Roberts:

        Christmas Morning

If Bethlehem were here today,
Or this were very long ago,
There wouldn't be a winter time
Nor any cold or snow.

I'd run out through the garden gate,
And down along the pasture walk;
And off beside the cattle barns
I'd hear a kind of gentle talk.

I'd move the heavy iron chain
And pull away the wooden pin;
I'd push the door a little bit
And tiptoe very softly in.

The pigeons and the yellow hens
And all the cows would stand away;
Their eyes would open wide to see
A lady in the manger hay,

If this were very long ago
And Bethlehem were here today.

And Mother held my hand and smiled --
I mean the lady would--and she 
Would take the woolly blankets off
Her little boy so I could see.

His shut-up eyes would be asleep
And he would look like our John,
And he would be all crumpled too,
And have a pinkish color on.

I'd watch his breath go in and out.
His little clothes would all be white.
I'd slip my finger in his hand
To feel how he could hold it tight.

And she would smile and say, "Take care,"
The mother, Mary would, "Take care";
And I would kiss his little hand
And touch his hair.

While Mary put the blankets back
The gentle talk would soon begin.
And when I'd tiptoe softly out
I'd meet the wise men going in.


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Cup is Full

    Dinner tonight with the family. Three were in Birmingham and absent from our table but present at another. Deeply missed. Yet still the joy abounded. Baked brie with raspberries in puff pastry. Yum Rum (boiled custard with spiced rum). Nuts and Bolts (homemade of course). Laughter. More laughter. Silliness. Then seriousness. Deep gratitude. The Christmas Story from Luke. No words. A time for prayer and reflection. Sigh.
     The dinner bell rings: Beef tenderloin. Bearnaise. Green Beans. Southern Fried Corn. Twice-baked potatoes. Sweet Potato Biscuits. Then Happy Birthday Jesus. Joy. More joy. More laughter. Bingo. A winner. Another winner. Santa arrives. Silliness and laughter. Love. Love. More Love.
    A house for Little One, Little Two and all the Littles that will follow. Wonder and joy. Worth the price and more!
Honey, Pappy and Little One!
Sheer Happiness! Oh My!
The best lap in the house belongs to Pappy!
The sweet momma, The Daughter, and precious Little One.
Making a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Uncle Bear. Uncle Brother, and Little One's Daddy!

Happy Birthday Jesus!
How could we forget the true meaning of Christmas...
Impossible!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One for You and One for Me


   Let me tell you, when Honey gets a bee in her bonnet, you better watch out. She has been talking about me coming over to make Christmas cookies for the past year. It's something she calls a "tradition." Oh brother.
    She and my mom (The Daughter) set the date and even invited my Uncle Brother to come over to help. They just didn't know that Honey and I had it all under control.
     Here I am arriving at Honey's for the big day. I am getting a personal escort inside by my Unky -- he's the who belongs to Nanny and Little Two. He stopped by Honey's house to pick up something before he heads off to B'Ham to be with his wife (my Aunt Nanny) and brand new baby girl (Little Two) for Christmas. I guess my cousin Little Two will come to the cookie making party next year. Oh no, I am gonna have to learn to share before then. At least I have another year to work on it.
  
This is the cookie making station. You can see
 that Honey has taken a few short cuts.
Yes, that's store bought icing.

     We didn't waste any time and got right to work. That's my very own bib I am wearing, but that apron is almost an antique. It's the one my Mommy wore when she and Honey made Christmas cookies long long ago. Honey is going to add my name to the apron. When she gets around to it.


Uncle Brother came over to help me out. I offered to let him taste some of the cookie dough but he said he was watching his waistline. I not only tasted the dough, I also had to taste all of the cookie cutters, too.

I think I might be able to get a job in a testing kitchen one day.

What do you think?


    Mommy was there to keep an eye on me. She didn't want me to eat too much of the sweet sticky stuff. But Honey reminded her how much my Mommy loved to eat the dough and said that she would even sneak around behind Honey's back to eat some more. I decided not to be sneaky. I was completely up front with my dough eating. Can you tell?

     I offered everybody some of my dough, but I didn't have any takers. That's fine with me. I just ate it all.
I say forget the cookies, just eat the 'makings!
     The final touch was shaking out the red sprinkles all over the cookies. This was my favorite part next to...yep, you guessed it...eating dough.
         Believe it or not this is hard work. You have to hold the shaker just so. I think I have it down to a science now.

        I was all dressed and ready to leave when I spied Honey's Christmas tree. I was hoping that maybe one or two of those packages under the tree just might be for me. Too bad I can't read or I would have opened a few. Instead, I just knocked them around a bit. No harm done.

      In case I don't see you again before Saturday, have a Merry Christmas! 







Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Guest Post from The Husband

    This is a first. In my two year blogging history, I have never invited The Husband to comment (I am just glad that he reads the blog on a regular basis), much less submit a post, but this was something too special to pass up.
    The Husband works for a financial institution here in Nashvegas. As with all large publicly owned companies, it is a secular institution.  Each year The Husband sends a Christmas letter to every employee of the bank, all 800+ of them. He does so with gentleness and respect for each employee, but no matter the personal cost to him, he feels compelled by deep conviction to share his thoughts regarding the true meaning of Christmas. It is a great blessing that the leadership of the bank does not prohibit him from sending the letter, which is so very rare in this day and time. I tell you all of this by way of introduction so that you will be able to understand how remarkable and precious the Christmas letter really is...
   Without further ado, here is the Husband's 2010 Christmas letter:


Merry Christmas!
“Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room.”

     "I am confident that you, as I, have probably sung these verses over a hundred times. However, as I recently pondered these words, I asked myself how many times have I truly reveled in the power of these words and celebrated their meaning? With the birth of Jesus, the Lord has truly come and we on earth can receive our King. Equally as important, and perhaps more so, these words entreat us to prepare Him room in our heart such that as we ask Him to be our Lord and Savior,  the Holy Spirit lives in us. Then when we pass from this earth, we awake in the Heavens to forever be with our Messiah. Indeed, what joy we should have as we celebrate each and every Christmas.

   As Christmas day approaches and I think of the various “happenings” related to this wondrous event, two words have resonated in my thoughts, “obedience and promise.”  The initial act of obedience centered upon Joseph – sometimes referred to as the forgotten man of Christmas. Joseph was forced to accept a situation that was certainly humiliating and as difficult as any which one could imagine as he excitedly looked forward to his marriage day with Mary, only to learn that his wife-to-be was pregnant. Once he learned the truth, out of obedience, Joseph remained fully devoted to Mary. On the other hand, Mary – reflecting the obedience of submission as seen in Luke, was chosen by God, and accepted her role as the one who as a virgin would give birth to the Son of God who came to earth to transform our world as no one else could ever do.

     With the birth of Christ, the shepherds were obedient in their role to go to this child bearing the gifts of worship and adoration. It is particularly important for us to realize that the shepherds were the lowest of society, pushed out of their lands by Egyptians and despised by many, yet chosen by God to be the first of humanity to whom the birth of the Son of God was to be revealed. What does that tell all the world? – no matter how low you are as judged by the world, you are never beyond the reach of the Lord; He came to reach out and touch us in a way no one else could.

     We must also ask ourselves, “Why was there no room in the inn for the Prince of Peace, the King of humanity, to be born?” There is nothing like Christmas in all of culture, in all the history of mankind. Never before has a King been relegated to such impoverished conditions, such that royalty would actually invade poverty. Contemplate the truth that the royal robes of eternity were born in the poverty of a stable surrounded by the stench of animals – even in birth rejected by humanity, a precursor to the end of His life when man would once again reject Him even to the point of death on a cross. Born to a peasant woman, God, by His son Jesus humbled Himself to become a man so that we might have access to Him for all eternity.

     The second word which I embraced was “promise” especially as related to the words of the Old Testament. The words of the prophets of the Old Testament clearly promise us that a Savior is to be born to this world. He is to be a King unlike any which the world would anticipate – a King who would come not to conquer by sword and physical battle, but instead a King who came to battle for the soul of each of the Lord’s precious children on earth. His battle was to conquer the natural sin to which we are all held hostage and provide us an avenue through God’s grace and mercy to be cleansed of these marks and through His grace and not works to be able to be reunited in eternity with our Lord.

     Christmas is like no other time of the year. The little boy or little girl in all of us begs to come out and join in the festivities. However, as believers we quickly determine that the true joy of Christmas is the knowledge that through the birth of Christ, we are promised that we will never be alone. No matter the circumstances which we face, we must claim the victory that in His sovereignty God is always intimately involved. During 2010, we at [this financial institution] have faced an array of challenges ranging from difficult business circumstances to seeing many impacted significantly by the May flood to severe illness of associates and loved ones and even to the passing of life on this earth. We, too, have experienced the blessings and joy of sacrificially helping others; witnessed the healing of those dealing with sickness; seen changes for the good in decision-making on the part of our children; and even prayed for an organ transplant recipient who has seen much improvement in her quality of life.

     For all that has been given to us, what perhaps might be the greatest gift which we might give to our Lord? I say that it is our obedience to Him, for in that obedience we give Him our heart; our soul; our spirit. When He came to earth as Emmanuel, God with us, that is what He desired from us. And through His birth into humanity, Jesus has opened the door to eternity for all who choose to believe and accept. I pray that we all embrace this truth: that we should not merely celebrate Christmas this season but instead we should celebrate Christ – some of us possibly for the first time. What a gift that would be to the Lord and surely a Merry Christmas for that person. Through this, what better present can ever be received? – The guarantee that one day, because of Jesus and Jesus alone, everything will be made right in this world! I pray that you find great joy in the truth that you are a special creation of the Lord, loved by Him in a way that we can never fully understand while on earth. In that and because of that, I wish for each of you a truly “Merry Christmas”!!

                                                                                                God Bless"




I couldn't have said it better if I tried...

Monday, December 20, 2010

The First Gift

   The Beginning. Number One. My Alpha:  Thankful does not come close. How can you describe in words what it is to be a fatherless child who suddenly discovers the everlasting love of the Father, the One who will never leave or forsake her; the one who has always and endlessly loved the little girl now all grown up and getting old on the outside, but who can shift on a dime to become once again that eight-year-old child who is still listening at the door for the sound of a voice and the fall of a step that will not be heard again this side of heaven.
   Through the years the hole in her has deepened and widened until it reached the point where it began to define her. She carefully maintained a facade, but the hole was there like the Grand Canyon. It would not go away. She couldn't fix it.
   It is the grief from which she had run. The grief from which she had hidden away her true self. It was only when her ever-seeping wounds begin to affect those around her that she was willing to examine these wounds and to begin to admit their existence. To be willing to turn from the darkness of self-protection toward the light. To risk exposure, if it carried the distant hope of healing. Redemption seemed to be too much to ask.
    And then He comes. Emmanuel. The Wounded Healer himself. The Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace. He has borne it all: the sin, the misery, the grief, the pain, the separation, the devastation, the desperation. And He has made peace for one and for all.
    And for that little girl now all grown up and getting old on the outside it is the miracle that she needs. He is here. He always was here. He always will be here. He is More than Enough.
     He is the Way of Peace for her. He is the Redeemer. It is the turning in and turning out of all things. In Him all things hold together. In Him she is held together. By gentle loving faithful hands. The tender embrace of a Father as He cups her face and whispers once again of His great great love for her, His daughter.
     And He is...in the beginning and the end...all she ever really needs. He is her Salvation.



Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Christmas Cave-In

     This post could bear one of two titles, "The Christmas Cave-In" or "How a Fake Tree Saved My Marriage." The Husband and I have been married for thirty-six years and traditionally Christmas has always been one of the hardest seasons for us to weather in unity, equanimity, peace or with composure, much less a joint manifestation of some semblance of sacrificial love. Despite the deeply spiritual significance of Christmas and all that it represents to us as believers in Christ, the husband and I have had the most serious wars of our marriage over of all things, a Christmas tree. I should be embarrassed. He should be embarrassed. We are. But we have also come to grips with the reality of the way that each of us looks at life. And it could not be more different.
     The Husband barely tolerates the Christmas tree. I dearly love the Christmas tree. And right there you have it. From day one of our marriage, the die was cast. The gauntlet was thrown...unbeknownst to either of us. He grew up in a family where the mother was perfectly happy with a minimally decorated tree and a minimally decorated house. For her, Christmas was all about the food and she was an exceptional and noteworthy Southern cook of the finest order, but decorations of a Christmas nature were definitely not her forte. I, on the other hand, was a descendant of a family line that revered all of the traditions of Christmas and in particular those that involved decorating and entertaining with style. My grandmother won her Garden Club Decorating Door contest for several years running, and she took her Christmas celebration, entertaining, and decor quite seriously. So did her daughter, my mother. My husband had no idea what he had married into, and I doubt that hot summer day in August when we spoke our vows that he ever even thought about Christmas. And truth be told, nor did I.
      But then Christmas did what Christmas always does. It came around. You might remember from an earlier post on the Christmas Bride, that the husband originally felt that since we used to travel out of state for the week of Christmas every other year, that on the year of travel, the tree was a completely superfluous purchase. We traveled to Florida that very first year of our marriage, but returned to our tiny apartment on the 23rd of December. After much crying, travail, and the use of feminine wiles, on Christmas Eve the Husband finally agreed to the purchase of a small table top tree. A real tree, of course. I distinctly remember that he talked the tree lot owner down to the bargain basement price of four dollars. Yep, you read it right. Four dollars. A bonafide bargain even in those days. Never mind that half the needles fell off the tree as we carried it up three flights to our apartment. It was a tree. I even managed to persuade him to stop at Walgreens (it was about the only thing open that late on Christmas Eve) to buy a few ornaments, which thankfully had already been marked 75% off. Although they were picked over, I managed to find a few hideous satin covered styrofoam balls and a plastic nativity which remained intact for the next thirty years where these ornaments always had a place of honor on our tree. They were the beginning.
     So having won that battle, I had little idea that we had just left the equivalent of the first shots fired at Fort Sumter for another war of another nature, one that was akin to the Alamo. Each and every year we would travel to the tree lot or to Home Depot to buy our tree. Our trees have represented all that the Christmas tree business has to offer. We have progressed from Scotch pines to Douglass firs and finally Frazier Firs. We have had tall trees and short trees. Skinny trees that looked more like pencils with erasers than trees. We have also had trees that appeared to be the incarnation of Queen Victoria...short and squat. We have had trees that looked like they were orphaned from birth and trees that looked like they could have graced the White House. And sadly, every one of them represented a battle. A contest of wills. His and mine.
The Husband would have been happy for the tree to remain outside "resting" for two weeks or even three before hauling it into the house. I would resort to badgering and cajoling to get him to bring the tree in and set it up, a task I tried to accomplish once or twice on my own, but found myself seriously lacking the requisite physical strength. It quickly became readily apparent that he was required to be on board.
     Once the tree was in the house, the next battle would ensue: getting the tree in the stand and upright: a wrestling match of the finest order. Words would be muttered under the breath and there would be much huffing and puffing. And then. Then he would collapse and say that's all I can do tonight. No lights. No angel on the topmost branches. I would grumble and pout and relent, because he is a man not easily moved.
Then the lights. More frustration. More disagreement. More disaster. And still no angel. If the tree was not too tall, I would haul the ladder in from outside and affix the angel myself, but it really was a job that usually required two people as she is quite a delicate thing. Some years, the sons were available to help, but none of them are too enamored of the idea of helping to decorate a Christmas tree. They must take after their father.
     I resigned myself early on to the fact that I would be largely responsible for decorating the tree, and it was a task that The Daughter and I enjoyed together for many years. We would put the Amy Grant Christmas album (the one with Tender Tennessee Christmas on it) into the CD player, make some hot chocolate and go to town. Those were delightful times.
    But then...then The Husband and I would get to the real battle zone. The dreaded REMOVAL OF THE TREE. No matter how many times I sought to prepare The Husband for this final task, he always tried and mostly managed to dodge. I guess in his mind, he had already done his part (hauling the tree into the house and setting her in the stand) and hauling out was not included in his duties.
    When the three sons were in the house, the Christmas tree battles were not as lengthy and protracted, but once the children went to college, things definitely got worse. Each year as Thanksgiving neared I began to dread the Christmas Tree wars. It was an old battle and I had no taste for it.
     So after thirty-four live trees, year before last I caved-in. On the day after Christmas, I did not go to the mall, instead I went to the Christmas tree store. I stood in line with what seemed like hundreds of women and listened while the salespeople extolled the virtue of one fake tree over another. I groaned inside, but I was determined. When I finally made my selection, I felt a tiny twinge of angst but that soon abated. The next year when Christmas rolled around and The Husband hauled the giant box into the house, less than twenty minutes elapsed before I found myself admiring a lovely shaped tree, fully lit and replete with the delicate bisque and lace angel firmly ensconced at the top. I knew then I had arrived. There were no mutterings under the breath, no pleading on my part, no tempers flaring and no frustration evident in either of our faces. We were smiling. I will repeat that. Smiling. So what if the tree did not emit that magnificent smell? I bought some fir scented spray and put live greens in other places throughout the house. I didn't have to worry about a dried out and withering tree crashing over. I didn't have to endlessly sweep and vacuum my living room multiple times. I was finished with finding needles in my carpet in June. I now have a happy husband and that makes me a happy wife. So what if I caved. I bought the fake tree. I know without a doubt that it has made a difference in my marriage. I only wish that I had done it sooner. But then again, I confess that I am an exceptionally stubborn woman. Bet you couldn't guess that, could you?!
Yes, it's a fake!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daughter's Annual Christmas Party

     The Paperless Post invitation read: Come for Soup, Drinks and Sweets! And so they did. Forty or so of our dear friends gathered with us at our home Saturday night. Our annual Christmas party is one of my favorite evenings that I look forward to all year long. Even the downpour that preceded the next day's snow certainly didn't dampen anyone's spirits.
     Here are some pictures of our holiday decor. We did have to modify a few things since we have a toddler (Little One) who is in constant motion and loves nothing better than to poke, prod, taste, and take apart everything. You might notice that the tree is somewhat sparsely decorated with mostly unbreakable ornaments. And since several strands of lights didn't make it to another year, we tried to make do with what we had. We kept the table simple with pine roping in the chandeliers and more pine roping lining the center of the wooden trestle table. The Mom helped me tuck magnolia leaves, fresh holly, other greens and white spider mums into tiny vases all along the table. Candlesticks in varying heights completed the look.
     We kept the food simple as well. My sweet husband made the homemade soups (tomato basil and potato) and we served them from the kitchen in an assortment of Christmas mugs. The table held an array of old fashioned treats like red and green (Christmas colors, of course) pepper jelly with cream cheese, strawberry trifle, chess tarts, pecan tarts, chocolate mint brownies, lemon squares, sugar cookies, and peppermint bark. We also served a veggie tray with hummus and had a cheese and fruit tray, but nothing that required the use of an oven at the last minute which made everything so much easier.
       Here are pictures of just a few of the friends who came to share the joy!
           Special thanks to the dear friend who took all of the pics for me and unfortunately did not make it into any of them!

          And an added postscript. The next evening my husband and I attended a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas concert. Honey and Pappy came to our house to babysit Little One. While they were sitting quietly in the den...the Christmas tree crashed over onto the floor. The poor thing is no longer wearing the few ornaments it had on before and is now woefully wedged in tightly between the window and a large chair. I am just glad it made it through the party before disaster struck!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Advent Prayer

    I have read the story hundreds of times. It never grows old. I have committed it to memory where it lingers and provides renewal and refreshment to my heart at the most opportune of times. Sometimes the words rise unbidden to the forefront of my mind where they replay like a poem or song that makes my heart want to sing...

       "And it came to pass in those days...that Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David..."
 
You know the rest of the story as well as I do. You know the cadence of the words and the inherent poetry and beauty of the language itself and the special way that the story tells us at once so very much and so very little of what really happened that night.

I learned something new about the story today. Our pastor was talking about the shepherds, and he likened their social status at that time to that of the gypsy, the migrant worker, the undocumented immigrant, or the homeless. The shepherds existed within Jewish society as a people without a voice. They had no legal status whatsoever and were considered so unreliable that they were forbidden by law to give testimony in court. They were never allowed to worship at the Temple because their occupation rendered them ceremonially unclean. In the pecking order of the Jews, they were the lowest of the low. In fact, they did not count, and they did not have to participate in the required census. They were quintessential nobodies.

Now here comes the irony.

The first witnesses, the first to receive the message, the first to come and worship, the first to spread the Good News, the first to "see" the Messiah were the very least of all in the kingdom of heaven.

Think about it.

Christ brought a revolutionary gospel, a revolutionary upheaval to the old order, and He taught us a revolutionary way to love and to live.

And he began with the nobodies. He did not begin with those in authority: the kings or the priests or the rulers. He did not seek out the rich and the powerful. He did not even seek the Wise Men. They sought Him.

I am just beginning to work all of this through in my head...and it is leading me to ask myself who and what do I worship when I am not engaging my head and my heart with the Lord? What draws my heart? What occupies my thinking? What else besides the gospel captivates me?

I am afraid it is not very pretty. I am afraid it is petty and selfish. I know the things that charm me most when my heart is not immersed in the gospel are things that are really of little value at all.

I so want to be a shepherd. I so want to be willing to leave it all in the field of my life and say to my family and those with whom I am in community ..."Let us now go even unto Bethlehem,and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us."

I want to kneel on that rough and filthy floor and offer to Him all that I am and all that I have. I want Christmas made new in my heart.

This is my Advent prayer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some of My Favorite Things ...

One of my favorite things to do is watch people do what they love. It can be an athlete, an artist, a baker, or a mom. It does not have to be something grand just something that brings joy to the person. I am honestly not a promoter of people/events in mass form but these are things that are truly not worth missing.

Here are a few people that are passionate about what they are doing (they also provide an amazing product and are friends!):

Catherine Clement is hosting: Christmas on 18th Ave ... I like to call it Christmas Wonderland. Her already beautiful home is decorated with amazing attention to detail and love. You walk into the smell of hot chocolate and treats. You then realize that you can buy beautiful handmade gifts to spread around to others that you love. I look forward to this day all year.

Massage East is my new favorite place. I actually think about it often. I feel as though I have found a new friend in Kathleen. She promotes self-care and is willing to talk through what is best for your body. I love how she has invested precious time to learn medical information that will help her understand how to best serve her clients.

My aunt is an AMAZING baker and cook. She has blessed my family so many times with delicious rolls, unbelievable caramel cake, and cinnamon rolls that I crave year round. She even had me come over when I was little to let me watch and then take part. Please contact me to get her information. She lives in Nashville and bakes year round.

Micah Puncochar has turned my backyard into a place that I will play with my precious daughter. He has vision and excitement that are both contagious. He is willing to work with prices, your thoughts and also will give ideas to inspire. Please contact me on this one, too.

All of these "favorite things" of mine are great places to find gifts to give or receive. Prices on some of these start super low and others are investments. Hope this helps!

I also want to say that not everyone is able to have a job they are passionate about, but you can have something in your life that brings excitement, joy, or passion. It is worth finding these things!!

Little Two Love

How great is the love the Father has for us...
  
This is the scripture that kept running through my mind when I kept the delicious and infinitely lovable Little Two this week.

She is three weeks old today.

I swear she smiled at me.

I sang Jesus Loves Me and quoted Psalm 139 to her. I also reminded her of some of the important truths from Proverbs 31. You might chuckle and say that she's a bit young, but it is none too soon. Did the Lord not say, "Out of the mouth of babes..." And besides, more than anything, I desire that Little Two will always know and treasure the great great love that the Father has for her from a very early age.

I know what it's like to have a praying grandmother. I had two.

So I'll keep praying, and singing, and cuddling, and loving, and telling Little Two all about her wonderful Savior and all that He's done for her...

I just couldn't resist sharing some of her sweetness with you today! "Oh taste and see that the Lord is good."


And yes, we apparently have this crazy hair thing going with both of our granddaughters! Gotta love it!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

    Last week The Husband and I saw Andrew Petersen perform a "rehearsal" of Behold the Lamb at our home church. It was a magical worshipful experience and if you have the opportunity to attend a performance of this Christmas concert in your local area, I urge you to go. In particular this song, written by Andrew and sung by Jill Phillips, touched a deep chord within me. I trust you will be blessed as much as I was.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Treasured Nativity

     For the first twenty-five years that my husband and I were married, I bought something reminiscent of the nativity as a part of our Christmas gift to one another. Thus it is that our home at Christmas is filled with creches. When Christmas is over, I don't even put them all away. Some of them remain in place throughout the year as a perpetual reminder of the "Gift" they represent. As you might surmise, these creches come in all shapes and sizes. Some are ornaments that hang upon the tree; others are fashioned of wood, ceramic, or clay, and one set is made entirely of felt...it is perfect for little hands to hold and to move and to place just so over and over again. The other day Little One ran immediately to this nativity set and alternately carried the cow, the camel and the wise men around for long periods of time. After she left, I continued to find the pieces hidden away in the most unusual places. 
Little One's favorite creche

    However, my favorite of all the creches is one that unless you know the story is unlikely to draw your attention. Despite is supposed lack of beauty, this particular creche takes center stage in our home and is there to greet you when you open the door to our house; it sits on the entry hall table. It has a base made by one of my children of unfired (basically dried) clay; three little figures made by another of my children (there were once four figures, but sadly, Joseph has completely disintegrated), a banner hand-lettered by yet another child, and finally, a tiny clay plaque made by yet another. In short, it represents the collective efforts of all four of our offspring, but it was not planned to be that way -- it simply happened. 
         The banner is twenty-three years old. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for the "Goly to God in the highest..." Goly was a first grader's way of writing "Glory," but I am sure that God understood exactly what this child of mine was trying to say. Another child lovingly crafted the base which originally was shaped more like a cave and had an overhanging top that has long since broken off. It holds the three figures (there were once four). There is  Mary; she is the figure on the right bending over the tiny figure resting on a bed of clay. It is Baby Jesus but his head is no longer attached to his body and must be carefully positioned or it will roll off on its own. To the left of Jesus and Mary is a lion. When the son who made the figures came home with this nativity with the lion, I had the audacity to ask him, "A lion?" You should learn early never to ask children questions like this, unless you want to immediately be put in your place. I will never forget that he looked at me with something akin to disdain as he said, "Of course, Mommy, the lion goes with the lamb." And so it does. I cried. He patted me. The Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God...they go together, do they not, and indeed, are they not one and the same? Yes, some of the most profound truths come out of the mouth of babes. 
     The final complement to this treasured creche is the little clay plaque in the back: you can barely read it, but in case you can't, I'll tell you: It says, "Jesus I Love You." It was originally supposed to be a cross, an Easter decoration, but when this child brought it home he told me,"I couldn't do the cross, Mommy, I wrote Jesus a letter instead. I thought He might like it better than the cross. I wanted to tell Him thank you." I cried again. He said, "I want it to go with the manger." It was springtime so I asked again, "Do you want me to put it with the Easter things?"  He shook his head firmly. "No, this cross is a letter, and it goes with the manger." 
       How could it be that a child understood something so deep, so powerful, so profound?  How could he grasp at the age of five, the very essence of the cross? How could he know that the cross, the terrible, wondrous cross, is also a letter, an I-love-you letter from a Holy God to His beloved, yet sinful people. 
       So you see perhaps why this tiny fragile nativity holds a place so dear to this mother's heart. Each child of mine made his or her contribution, unplanned and unscripted over the course of many years to make it complete. There is a Banner of Love (Goly to God...). A little cave to cradle the Holy Family. A lion to stand guard and to lie down with the lamb.  And finally, a love letter that would and should have been a cross, except that a little boy wanted so much to write this letter to say thank you to Jesus for the cross. And the child knew intuitively that this was no ordinary baby, this was a baby born to die to save us from our sins. Christmas irrevocably linked to Easter. It is no accident that we must become as little children, is it? And once again, I cry, "Lord help my unbelief. Help each of us to believe with the wonder and the certain faith of a child."


    It is my Advent song this year...



   

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Place of Honor

    You cannot see the place of honor. It is buried somewhere deep inside the core of me. Perhaps the soul and spirit of a woman or man reside somewhere between the God-inspired confluence of heart and brain. I know not where. I know only that it is there. Unseen by human eyes, this is the place where He has set his seal upon me and in so doing has claimed me and marked me as His own.
    It still takes my breath away. The little girl with the sorrowing hole in her heart has found it filled to the full. And overflowing. The young fatherless child is now a daughter, His daughter. My eyes seep tears.
    This is how I celebrate the advent of the Christ, the coming of the Long-Expected One, my Savior. I remember. I stop. I cease my endless striving. I fall down before Him. I wish that I could remain in this place stretched out in the silence before Him. Joyful. Hopeful. Thankful. Oh, so thankful for my Abba, my Poppa, my Father, the Holy One. I am overcome and humbled by the long and difficult journey He took to claim the heart of one then eight-year-old girl. To afford me the honor of being His forever.

 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another Grandmother to Love Me!

 Posted by Little One:
    You would think by the way that Honey carries on and on, that I have only the one grandmother! That's just not so. I am one blessed little girl and am surrounded by lots and lots of love and lots and lots of family. My grandmother Gigi is on her way to Honey's house to pick me up. She and I have so much fun together. She's a very experienced grandmother so she knows all the right things to do. Honey is still in the beginning stages of grandmotherhood so I always try to be as understanding as possible when I go to her house. I even slept in until eight this morning just for her. Honey has been looking a little tired so I figured she might need some more beauty rest.
    But back to Gigi. She rocks. Gigi even came to my birthday party dressed up as Spiderman's grandmother because she knew that Spiderman was coming to my party. How cool is that?  I also hear rumors that she makes the best sugar cookies known to man, but I have not been allowed to taste them yet. As soon as my climbing skills get a little better, I am going to stand on a chair and watch Gigi make the cookies. I just know that she's going to let me have a taste. I can just imagine it now. Yum Yum.
   Here is a picture of me with Gigi. Can't you tell how much she loves me? I sure can.
I am just a wee thing here...I am not looking too hot
in this shot, but Gigi looks beeeuuuutiful, doesn't she?!
I seem to have this bad habit of gazing off into space.
This picture was taken at my baptism party.
Gigi's special friend Esther made the dress I
wore to my party. Esther was a friend of my
great-grandmother Nonnie who is already in heaven.
 I just love this dress. It is pale pink.
What girl doesn't love pink?!
  
     There I am...gazing off into space again. But I still love this picture. That is Gigi's daddy, my great-grandfather, Pa B, in the picture. He loves me and he loves Jesus so very much. He is always speaking the blessing wherever he goes. I am glad that he is still around to love on me and tell me about Jesus.
         This is a more recent shot of me with Gigi. It looks like I forgot to comb my hair. I did. It also looks like I forgot to wipe my mouth, which is true, but I was having too much fun to worry about details like that. Gigi looks great. I look like I have seen better days.
      I better run. Honey is busy packing my suitcase so I will have everything I need when I get to Gigi's. Honey is muttering under her breath. She doesn't think I can hear her, but I can. She says that my mom, The Daughter, packed everything but the kitchen sink. I have no clue what that means. Oh well. Such is life when you are 13 months old. I'm off to Gigi's to have fun...see you soon!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back By Popular Demand...The Christmas Bride

    A friend of mine recently asked me if I would repost the blog entry about our "bride" Christmas trees. Here is what I wrote a little more than a year ago:
     One of our family Christmas traditions was borne out of desperation rather than necessity as the age-old axiom asserts. In the early years of our marriage my husband and I argued incessantly over the annual purchase of the Christmas tree. It is not that the man was the incarnate Ebenezer Scrooge, but rather the one who tended to view life from an immensely practical side (I suppose ole Ebenezer did too). My husband's point of view was based on the fact that since we traveled 500 miles to spend Christmas with my family of origin every other year, the purchase of a Christmas tree for a house that would be vacant on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was totally superfluous. But I, who was raised by the Queen of Christmas Decor, knew otherwise. It mattered little whether the house was occupied on the actual day of Christmas or Christmas Eve...the tree was an essential component of the festivity and celebration of the season. Yet my husband would not budge. Thus I was forced to badger, cajole, plead and use every resource available to convince the recalcitrant man that a Christmas tree was a vital purchase EVERY single year.
     Once I had won this battle, I had little time to rest on my laurels before another problem arose. The tree was purchased and firmly ensconced in the living room but alas, there were very FEW LIGHTS and virtually NO ORNAMENTS. What was a girl to do? I was desperate. I had won the right to have the tree each year, but who wants a naked tree in the house...staring at you night after night waiting and begging to be dressed in some appropriate holiday finery. And I knew better than to go to my husband and ask for more money to purchase items that he already struggled to find necessary. And so in my desperation I prayed for inspiration and inspiration I found. 
     The first year I popped popcorn, bought cranberries and made garlands galore until my thumbs were sore from the needles going in and out, in and out as I strung for hours on end. And when I realized the next year that I was in the same boat as before because used popcorn and cranberry garlands are only good for the birds... I prayed once again. On the hunt in our tiny apartment, I dug through an old trunk to find carefully preserved bows, ribbons and leftover tulle from our wedding. I also found a few bits -- a yard or two here and there-- of several laces that I had purchased to embellish a dress or two. Soon these ribbons and laces found their way onto the tree and over time have become the tradition in our home. Now there are ribbons from our daughter's wedding and some gorgeous antique lace given to me by a special friend over 20 years ago that have been added to the original collection.
      Each year these ribbons and bits of lace more than garnish our tree-- they serve as the tree's primary decoration and help to make each one a object of beauty. When my daughter was about six or seven, she was helping me drape the tree in its finery when she turned to me and said, "Look Mommy, our tree is a bride." And I stepped back and squinted my eyes just so. And then I saw it. The tall green lady in her odd bits of lace and ribbon had suddenly become a very beautiful bride. And so it has been for the past thirty-five years that all our Christmas trees are brides. Each one different and each one beautiful in her own right. I love it. For me, it is another extension of the picture of Christ and his love for his people, the Church. We are His bride and He is the Bridegroom. And each year when we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the mystery of the unlovely who become the lovely by the grace, mercy, incarnation, and sacrifice of God. And each year our tree stands in her bridal glory as a tangible reminder of that glorious and powerful love.
      And here is the 2010 tree in all her glory, another reminder to me of the faithful love of God and the fact that despite the darkness that prevails in the hearts of men, Jesus is the Light of the World.


     
     
Go here to check out some additional decorating ideas from some very talented folks!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chestnuts Roasting on a Fake Fire

     "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose...Yuletide carols being sung by a choir..."
     I wish.
     Our fire is fake, but at this stage of life I don't think I can do the bending and hauling and stoking and cleaning that a real fireplace demands, so I'll settle for my fake fire. We just light it for ambiance, because we learned a few years back when Nashvegas had a massive ice storm, and we lost power for five straight days that our fake fire does not put out many, if any, BTU's. Oh well, it still looks pretty good, or at least I think so when I am not wearing my glasses. And chestnuts? Give me a break. Martha Stewart and Ina Garten might know all about chestnuts, but I do not. I don't think I ever even saw a chestnut tree in the part of Florida where I grew up. Pecans. Now that's another matter. I know all about pecans. I even tried singing the carol using the words "Pecans roasting on an open fire..." but it just doesn't sound the same.
     And Jack Frost nipping at your nose. I guess your nose is supposed to turn cute and red, but that never seems to be the case around here. We either look like Rudolph when we get really cold or we turn nasty pasty white. Neither is attractive.
     And the part about Yuletide carols...we don't sing in my family, we make joyful noises. We try. But even the obligatory "Happy Birthday" is best hummed in my house.
     This is supposed to be a post about decorating mantels for Christmas. I guess I got a bit sidetracked. After you look at the picture of my mantel, you probably will be able to ascertain a few things about me:

  • I like trees. I mean really like trees. I found the painting above the fireplace at an estate sale and fell in love with it. I even waited and went back the second day to see if I could get a better deal. I did. And it has been love ever since.  The painting used to be on my porch, but now is in my den where I look at it every single day. So I usually do a tree themed mantel to go with the painting.
  • We have a big family. Those are all the stockings for my immediate family. My dear momma is the one who initiated the tradition of the needlepoint stockings, and all of my original stockings were designed by her and needlepointed by her. They are gorgeous. She would probably die if she knew that the in-law stockings came from Lands End, and the grandbaby stockings came from EBay. Oh well, what she doesn't know won't hurt her.
  • I don't know the meaning of the word edit. I once had a decorator friend of mine come over. He rearranged the furniture, paintings and do-dads while The Husband and I were on a five-day trip. I think it nearly killed him. When we returned to our "new" home, he was kind enough to say, "You have lovely things, BUT...you need to learn to edit." Unfortunately, despite his sincere and well-intentioned advice, I have failed at this task. I do not know how to edit. I always get carried away with myself.
  • I like clutter. It is my middle name. No explanation necessary.

    I guess there's not much else I can say. Merry Christmas, and here's the unedited and unPhotoshopped mantle and one more Christmas picture for you to enjoy:

  
    

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chaos or Tranquility

   I stayed up late last night. The dogs had even put themselves to bed when I finally climbed into that double bed my husband and I are still sharing after thirty-six years of marriage while the clock had already made its way into today. I am now tired, really tired, but last night I had put enough ornaments on the tree that I could turn off the other lights in the living room and just sit. So I did. I sat there and I thought about the paradox of Christmas. How we work ourselves to the bone sometimes to create something beautiful and then forget to enjoy it. How the glory of Christmas really has very little to do with the glittering trees and presents stacked under them. How a simple manger filled with hay in a humble stable with animals has somehow been corrupted by the wayward and sinful heart of man into something so commercial that it seems downright tawdry. And yet, and yet. I was talking to the Lord last night in front of my tree. Admiring the tree. Yes. Thankful for the beauty. Yes. Glad to be done with the work of setting it up. Yes. And then I heard the whisper. So soft. So still I almost missed it.
      I am here.
     "Here?" I asked. "Here in this mess that I have yet to clean  up and the beauty I am trying so hard to create? Here? This is more chaos than tranquility. Really."
      Yes, HERE.
   What could I say?  His words are for me both the mystery and the true beauty of Christmas. That He IS here. With me. Emmanuel. God with us. I could not help but get down off of the sofa and stretch myself out the floor before an awesome and Holy God who would come. And who would stay to make the way. And who though He departed, gave to us the gift of the Comforter, another treasured, complete, and perfect aspect of Himself.
     Emmanuel. The One who will never leave or forsake us. It is almost too much to believe. But that is the wonder of Christmas. That we believe. He understood that the wonder of Christmas would afford us the very opportunity to become like little children. Full of joy and giddy with the glory of it all. That the angels came to the shepherds. That the skies were filled with the sound of their magnificent singing. That Joseph stood watch over Mary with such tenderness in his heart. That Mary held in her arms the Babe who was the long expected One. That together she and Joseph watched the shepherds who had left their flocks, come one by one to kneel on the rough floor of that stable. To offer no gift but their worship. And there in the manger lay the King of Glory. This is not so hard to believe.  Suddenly I am five. I am twelve. I am forty. I am fifty-six. Yet  I am still the child. Desperately wanting to believe this and more and wanting and willing to go deeper still. I speak aloud my heart cry, "I need you to help me believe." And the whisper comes again.
     I am here.
     It is all and more than I need in this moment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap

   With a brand spanking new baby in the family, we decided to scale back our large extended family Thanksgiving celebration. At the final count we ended up with fourteen adults and four children, but that included Little One and Little Two and Little Two's first cousins from Birmingham. It was a joyful celebration that extended itself over two days. I love having a house full of people and for two days that's what we had. Here is a visual recap of our time together.
     This is a shot of the "big" table -- in the dining room. You can certainly tell that I am not shy about using color. I filled my mint julep cups with assorted mums in a range of fall colors; the leaves on the table are from Hobby Lobby, and thankfully, I did not drag out my china. I used my everyday dishes, Pomona by Portmeirion, and boy, am I glad I did. The clean-up was ten times easier. 
   From this angle you can see the other table in the living room. I tried to line them up for conversation purposes, and it worked fairly well. If you look closely, you will see that I have a mishmash of odd chairs. No apologies. You use what you have. Right?!
   I was inspired by some of my fellow bloggers to try something a little different on the other table. Off and on during the year, I searched for some vintage tins in which I could arrange some flowers. Sadly, I forgot to make sure that all of the tins were waterproof, and  I was unable to use my favorite purchase -- an ancient Lipton Tea tin. This venture did not turn out quite as expected, but I learned a lot. This old dog can learn new tricks.
   The day before Thanksgiving a friend dropped this adorable white pumpkin by my house. Of course, I had to use it on the serving table. If you look closely in the picture, you can tell that I have not finished cleaning up for the soon-to-be arriving company. That's one of those "As Seen on TV" BarkOff products on the table. I am a sucker for those kind of things. I guess I am doing my part to keep the economy afloat.
     This is my "keeping it real" shot. I make a huge mess when I cook or work on any project, for that matter. You think I would learn that it sometimes means I have to clean up twice. I also did not want you to think that I had one of those large fancy gourmet kitchens (I wish). This is the forty-plus year old kitchen that originally came with the house except for the granite countertop upgrade and a relatively new stainless steel hood. That's all the budget could handle. I am day-dreaming about Urban Grace and all of Erica's fabuloso design work, but somehow don't think it is in my immediate future.
      Now on to the best part -- the folks who graced our table this year. Picture on the left is our daughter-in-law's father and one of Little Two's first cousins. Isn't this little girl a doll in her mini Boden outfit?! And I just adore the grandpa name for this fabulous grandfather -- "Big." Big is short for "Big Daddy." And that cutie-patootie in the second shot is none other than Little Two. She is officially just shy of the one week mark. She was a dream baby on Thanksgiving Day, and despite the noise that surrounded her, we heard nary a peep from her.
       Below are the beautiful "B" women. Our daughter-in-law is the gorgeous girl on the far right, and the two precious little people belong to the beauty in the middle. Grandmother MiMi on the left is also a lovely lady inside and out. The Dad and I feel extraordinarily blessed to have this family connected to ours.
  

       This picture makes me melt inside. My Second Son holding his daughter, Little Two. Wow. It takes my breath away and reminds me afresh of the faithfulness of our God.
         And of course, no special occasion would be complete without the reminder that Little One was there. She loved the fact that Little Two's cousins were in attendance as she finally had a playmate her age. However, nothing could deter her from her usual search and destroy mission. Can you tell she was having fun?

  The aftermath...there is nothing more to be said. I am still 
working on it two days later.
 But that's also my style and my choice! No complaints here. Just a heart full of blessings
and a belly full of food! Hope yours was delightful as well!