Nov 26, 2008

I'm Thankful

I'm thankful that God loved me SO much He sent His only Son to die in my place. Grace so undeserved.

I'm thankful to live in a country where I'm still free to worship and live my life as a fully devoted follower of Christ, a privilege I don't take for granted and pray will remain.
I'm thankful for godly parents who love the Lord first, then each other, and then their children in ways that have always pointed me toward Jesus. They have sacrificed so often for me and for my sister.
I'm thankful for a loving sister who is an amazing, talented, wonderful Christian woman and friend. I'm thankful for her newfound (found again?) happiness with her husband.I'm thankful for her kids, the two greatest nieces and greatest nephew God ever created. They are joys!
I'm thankful the Lord added to my family by giving me the wonderful gift of my precious Studly Man. He makes my life complete.
I'm thankful for Studly's folks who have embraced me as their own and show love so freely.
I'm thankful for Studly's sister and her precious family who are wonderful examples of sacrificial love. (All four kids are adopted.)
I'm thankful for Studly's brother and his wife who bless us with their kind hearts.
I'm thankful for one very energetic and loyal BigDog and the joy she brings to our home.
I'm thankful for her little brother who makes me smile every day with his sweet cuddles.
I'm thankful the Lord sees fit to use us and that big dog in minstry to bring His love to kids who need to know Him.
I'm thankful for a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church that is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, refuses to compromise the Truth, and reaches out to the world with His love.
I'm thankful for an amazing friend who has known all my secrets for 30 years and loves me any way.
I'm thankful for a wise friend who sees the best in me even when I can't.
I'm thankful for a sisterhood of friends who hold me accountable and encourage me to follow Jesus.
I'm thankful for my job and the privilege of working with some awesome ladies.
(no, of course that's not me... just the only picture I could find of a woman working at her desk.)


I'm thankful for all my bloggy friends and their wonderful encouragement in my life.
My prayer for each of you this Thanksgiving is that your heart and home be filled with love and joy as you count your many blessings from above.

Nov 18, 2008

Making Thanksgiving Special

As I mentioned in the previous post, I love making Thanksgiving a special gathering for my family. Any time we have together is precious, but especially so when everyone recognizes and is focused upon just how precious that time is.

I usually employ my printer to make formal invitations and mail them to each household and to family friends who may be joining us for dinner. My family deserves my very best effort, more than any other guests I'll ever host, and I love creating an atmosphere where memories can be made.

Here are some examples of past years' invitations.





This year, I didn't do invitations, but I still wanted to do something special for everyone. Every now and then I surprise myself and actually come up with a craft idea that turns out well (not my strong suit). In doing "something special" this year, I also solved an age-old problem: a way for everyone to keep up with their drinking glass! (I had a side agreement with my dishwasher to try to lighten the workload a little.)

I bought some glass beads and wire loops to make "beverage ID" markers. Then I went on a mission to find a charm that somehow represented each member of the family. Here's what I came up with:

Paw (my dad, the grandkids call him "Paw") - he's been teaching the Word in Sunday School for as long as I can remember, and his wisdom and knowledge have blessed us all.


Meegoo (my mom; Meegoo is what the grandkids call her) - she's the sweet and loving heart of our family, the one whose heart feels our joy, our sorrows, and everything in between.



Leslie (Studly Man) - a) he's lived all over Texas and/or b) he's the man I had to move all the way to Texas from Virginia to find. (I looked for a dog paw charm, but they were sold out.)



Me - I'm the family whale lover. My dream vacation is to go on a whale watching trip.






Joe (my brother-in-law) - he's the band director at a local Christian school and quite a talented saxophone, clarinet and flute player. He's also an excellent arranger and plays in a professional jazz quartet.



Megan (a.k.a. Me-Again, my sister) - she's the choir director at the same Christian school and is also the organist at their church. She's a private voice and piano instructor, and she sings like an angel. She directs the North Central Chapter of the Singing Women of Texas.



Rachel (my eldest niece) - she's our Texas Longhorn. She graduated in May with her bachelor's in biomedical engineering and is currently back at UT in graduate school.





Cammie (my youngest niece) - the child can text message with her eyes closed or while she's explaining the theory of relativity. (She's a music major, following in the footsteps of her talented parents, but there weren't any other music charms!)




Daniel (my nephew) - he's a junior in high school (yes, that same Christian school where his parents teach) and is a talented basketball player. His school colors are green and gold. BTW, he's just recently been thrust into the position of point guard, but he's really an excellent center.



Kei (Rachel's significant other) - he's a scary smart aerospace engineer whose family is from Hong Kong. (Rach, please don't hit me if I got any details wrong!)







Ben (our dear friend and best man in our wedding) - he has the biggest heart for missions I have ever seen. He's a loyal prison ministry dedicate and has recently founded another ministry to feed villagers in Africa and Romania in a most unique way. Check out his web site.






So there you have it. My homemade beverage-ID-charms-with-significance.

Now if I could just get those place cards done... Come back soon to see those.





Stretching Thanksgiving Dinner


It's hard to believe it's

a: Wednesday again (time for Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer)

and

b: just a WEEK before Thanksgiving!

I love Thanksgiving. I love all the planning and cooking and setting a beautiful table. It's fun to really go all out for the big day. Use the china! Use the good flatware. Use real glasses. No sense in saving the "nice things" for a special occasion. The family all around the table together? That IS a special occasion! There's no group of people I'd rather host, and no better reason to gather than to give thanks to the Lord for His enumerable blessings in our lives.

My mom and my grandmothers and great-grandmother always put together wonderful Thanksgiving feasts over the years. A lot of work? Indeed, but a labor of love always. Along the way, some shortcuts were discovered. (That is why you came here, isn't it?) Here are two of my favorites.

It should be known that my dad LOVES Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, dressing, the trimmings. He not only loves it on Thanksgiving Day, but long afterward. But instead of eating turkey dinner every meal for three or four days, my mom figured out how to keep us from getting tired of it AND make her life easier in the busy days that follow Thanksgiving.

Our family tradition for the dressing is a yummy bread and celery variety that my dad's grandmother made. Mom learned how to make it, and it has been a favorite part of the meal for as long as I can remember. Because of its consistency, it is easy to form into patties about the size of a hamburger patty. Instead of a large pan for cooking, the patties are put on cookie sheets and baked. Because they are smaller this way, they cook more evenly. And the best part? They FREEZE easily! Mom will stack two or four patties together, put them in an empty bread bag or container, and freeze them. Then on a busy day when dinner time is looming, she only has to take out as many as are needed for one meal and reheat them.

The second idea is along those same lines. Ya know that amazing gravy made from the giblets? Mom freezes it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, she pops them out of the trays and stores them in Ziploc bags. Then when she needs them, she simply gets out a few frozen "gravy cubes" and thaws them in the microwave. One cube is usually enough for one person, but certainly more can be used if desired.

Turkey meat doesn't freeze well, so a small, fresh (and maybe already cooked) turkey breast from the grocer's deli section will be just the right amount to put with the dressing. Toss a salad or add a vegetable or two, and voila! A wonderful Thanksgiving dinner - again - without all the prep and clean up! This way ALL the food prepared for the big family meal gets eaten, and none is thrown away. It also prevents the I-am-so-sick-of-turkey-and-dressing-I-can't-see-straight feeling that inevitably comes with standing at the refrigerator for the three days following Thanksgiving.

I hope your Thanksgiving is full of love and joy and blessings.

Nov 15, 2008

Because Not Everyone Will Be Home For The Holidays

Melanie over at the Big Mama blog is soliciting help in saying "thank you" and "Merry Christmas" to deployed soldiers' families who are based at Fort Sill, OK. This is a great, easy, inexpensive way to remind them of our deep gratitude for the sacrifices they make daily as their loved ones are in harm's way to protect our freedom and liberty. If you have kids, this can be a great teaching moment and family activity.

Go check it out, and please help us encourage these Army families.

http://thebigmamablog.com/index.php/2008/11/15/because-not-everyone-will-be-home-for-the-holidays/

Nov 12, 2008

Refining Fire

I've learned something new.

Well, really, I've learned something old in a new way. Have you ever noticed the most profound lessons in life often come through painful circumstances or involve people whose integrity you respect(ed)? Have you ever wondered why it is most frequently not a complete stranger who causes pain, but instead someone we know well? And have you noticed that "doing the right thing" isn't easy? Have you noticed that people's intentions towards you are not always good? And have you noticed that when the chips are down, true colors of people begin to show?

In Mark 7, Jesus was speaking to a crowd. He said, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men." And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.'" After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. "Are you so dull?" He asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately wicked; who can understand it?"

The condition of a man's heart is a subject to which God directs our attention throughout the Scriptures. He knew the battle for pure hearts would be a struggle for all generations. I wonder why it is then that we are so surprised by the wickedness we see in others. In ourselves.

Studly and I learned (again) that God cares far more about our holiness than our happiness.

I'm going to say that again.

God cares more about our holiness than our happiness.

Refining fire.

Painful.

Necessary.

Fruitful.

If you're in the fire today, be strong and take courage. There is a purpose in it. And when that purpose is accomplished, only silver and gold remain.

Nov 10, 2008

High School

Today I received an email meme from a friend. It was all about high school. It got me thinking about things I haven't thought about in a very long time.

Here is part of it:

1. Did you date someone from your school? Yes. Nelson and Keith

2. Did you marry someone from your high school? Nope. I married an Irish-Peruvian boy from the Rio Grande Valley.

3. Did you car pool to School? Not usually. We just lived a few blocks away. Mom generally took me.

4. What kind of car did you have? Mom had a cream colored Malibu Classic that I was occasionally fortunate enough to borrow.

5. It is Friday night then; where are you? In full Planoette uniform in the drill team section of the stands, watching the Cardiac 'Cats charge on to victory. We played in the state championship game my junior year two days before Christmas, but lost to Houston's Stratford High School where a young Craig James was playing his senior season before going on to SMU to team up with Eric Dickerson. They both went on to play in the NFL. If you HAVE to be beaten, at least be beaten by the BEST!

6. It is Friday night now, where are you? At home with Studly Man and our furry four-legged children.

8. What kind of job did you have in high school? Cashier at Pitman Corner Shell. Did my homework in the kiosk most nights while the guys cleaned out the carwash.

9. Were you a party animal? Not really. My friends weren't really the "party crowd."

10. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? Was in choir my freshman through junior years, but had to give it up senior year.

11. Were you a nerd? Probably. Following in the footsteps of my sister, the valedictorian, grades were a big deal.

12. Did you get suspended or expelled? Nope.

13. Can you sing the school song? Dear Plano High School, Hats off to you. 'Ever you'll find us loyal and true (true, true, true). Firm and undaunted, always we will be, Hail to dear Plano HIGH SCHOOL, we love you! Required to learn that AND sing it at every football and basketball game.

14. Who was your favorite teacher? Mama Mac. (Phyllis McNeill, drill team sponsor) She was one of the last really good teachers who knew that expecting a lot from us and refusing to accept less than our very best would serve us well. She was never afraid to "tell it like it is," even if our feelings might get hurt. Many of the things she taught us still bounce around in my head.

15. Where did you sit during lunch? Either in subschool area C or Taco DeLite

16. When did you graduate? 1980. We were 80 Ladies

17. What was your school mascot? Wildcats. Maroon and white.

18. If you could go back and do it again - what would you do? Realize the people whose approval I desperately wanted are really sad, unfulfilled people in their adult lives. Wouldn't take things so seriously.

19. Did you go to the Prom? Went long enough to have our pictures made and make sure all the "friends" saw us arrive in our chauffeur driven Rolls Royce, which belonged to and was driven by Keith's brother-in-law. Keith couldn't afford to rent a limo like other guys were doing, so his BIL offered to take us in the Rolls. We were the envy of all (and no one knew he hadn't rented it). After that, we went to a fish fry with some of his friends (he and his crowd were three years older).

20. Do you still talk to the person you went to the prom with? Yep. Saw him (and his sweet wife and two children) at his nephew's wedding a few weeks ago. His sister is my best friend of 30 years.

21. Do you still talk to people from your school? Very few. Mostly people who also went to my church then and are friends of the family.


Interesting that life has changed so very much and not very much at all, both at the same time. I'm certainly older and hopefully wiser. I don't take things (people) so seriously now, and I am so secure in who I am and Whose I am.

Just for fun, tell me some of your favorite high school memories or better yet, copy and paste this meme and answer it on YOUR blog!

Nov 4, 2008

"Bang Bang" and "Snarl"

In demonstrating the power of a relationship with a Master to troubled youth, Studly Man uses Shiloh (aka "BigDog") as the "living picture." Along the way, we like to have some fun.

Hands down, the kids' favorite stunt of Shiloh's is "bang bang." They ask for it every time. Sometimes they ask to see it again and again. They also really like to see her snarl so they can get a good look at her big ole teeth. She has a hand signal for that just like she does every other trick she does. Studly knows that keeping Shiloh's performance skills sharp is crucial, so he works with her regularly.

In the process, we started noticing Samson (aka "Little") would emulate what he'd see Shiloh doing. Studly started working to teach Samson "bang bang." See if it makes you laugh like it does us.

Here's Shiloh doing "bang bang" and "snarl":

video

Now here's Samson doing "bang bang." He anticipates the command and plays dead even before the command because he knows what is in Studly's hand. Note Shiloh on the floor at the foot of the bed. SHE is following commands and she wants. her. treat.

video

God's sense of humor is evident in these two silly examples of His creation. But we love 'em!