Nov 30, 2010

♪ Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day ♫

Our Thanksgiving was as traditional as we could make it in the party room at my mom's condo. Mom and I set the tables for 30 the night before, complete with centerpieces--all from stuff I found in my basement! We also had an appetizer table which later on was converted into a dessert table, and we also had a separate beverage table. A long bar style counter top served as our buffet table.

Our menu was also traditional as they come: turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry relish, corn, squash casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, jello salad, home made bread, pumpkin pie and other miscellaneous desserts.

There were extra tables where we had activities for the children set up such as card games, board games, and coloring papers.

Hubby made a turkey poster for the children and each told something they were thankful for to be written on it's feathers.

Other special events of the day included the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD...

... a birthday celebration for Ethan, who turned two the week before...

...and Wii games for the kids.

The adults were serenaded by Andy and Ellie...

...and we also played a hilarious group game called "I have never..." You start by holding up your ten fingers and you go around the circle, each person taking a turn saying something like "I have never been skydiving". If anyone HAS been skydiving, they have to put a finger down. So the last person who has any fingers still up wins. It was so much fun and had everyone in stitches. We kept it clean and with no personal attacks!

Some of the family members who had their dinner elsewhere came later for dessert with us. Altogether, four generations were represented. It really was a very happy day and of course no one went home hungry! Another great holiday with family and some friends too...another chance to thank the Lord for all of His blessings, and another chance to teach the youngest among us that being together, loving each other, and building happy memories are important family values that we cherish.

Standing out among our blessings was my smiling nephew, Rick, who finished his second tour in Afghanistan with the Marines this year, and also the healing of some relationships within the family.

To God be the Glory, great things He has done!!

Nov 22, 2010

I've got a LOT to learn!

It was small but mighty. We sat around the table, all four of us. Three-fourths of the group couldn't make it on Saturday morning. I was slightly disoriented coming in myself. I got up feeling a little depressed because I had too much pizza the night before and it showed on the bathroom scale. I was beyond tired. And I was wondering why I hadn't received anyone else's work through e-mail and feared I would be the only one having mine critiqued.

I'm not sure WHY I joined this writer's group. I somewhat know the person who is leading it, but no one else. I trust the leader because she has a sweet spirit and a kindness about her that tempers her intimidating list of credentials. She is a big picture person...a visionary who not only dreams big, but DOES big. And she is dreaming big for us. Actually she accelerates the dreaming process. Where I think "some day I'd like to write a book" she is on to "when we start to get published..."

While basically by personality I am pretty much an open book and wear it all on my sleeves to a fault, it is still intimidating to put your inner thoughts to paper, read it outloud to strangers, then sit quietly while they pick it apart. There is a protocol to doing this, and you are not permitted to to give any kind of explanation or mia culpa before you read what your wrote. You just read it and let the chips fall.

On Saturday I was the one asked to read first. The lady who sat next to me is a professional editor. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her quietly thumping her pen as I read my work. When I finished, she was the first to comment. "This lacks focus. I mean, I'm asking myself, why do I need to KNOW this?".

Just a few short weeks ago had anyone used those particular words, I would have been crushed and melted into a pool of tears. I would have taken it so personally, and probably would have given up altogether. While the words temporarily stung, I listened as the others weighed in. There were a few compliments on some of my detailed descriptions. That was something I had been criticized for at the previous meeting, so I had worked extra hard on that area. It felt good that they noticed.

The more they had to say, the more it was impressed on me why I am doing this. These people are here to help me. We are here to help each other. They gave me some suggestions not only on how to structure what I had to say, but some things I could expand on to make my work stand out and not look like "anyone's" story.

All of this is done in love. This is not a college class where you sink or swim. This is a group of Christian women who come together for the purpose of encouraging one another and for stirring up the gifts that are within us.

I have a long way to go. I'm very challenged, and barely have the room in my life to forge ahead with this. But I need this so much. All this costs me is my time, and a teachable spirit. I'm so thankful for this opportunity. Somehow in my heart I know that when the fog clears, I will see clearly that this was a God thing all along.

" iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another..." Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Nov 18, 2010

Thanksgiving~Then and Now*

Thanksgiving was always a special day in our family when I was growing up. I have nothing but sweet memories of all the preparations and of a feast day that was beyond comparison. Mom would get up very early in the morning and start the preparations for our holiday meal. We always woke up to that familiar smell of roasting turkey that we couldn’t wait to taste. There were four of us girls (along with our three brothers) and each of us were assigned jobs to do. Counting out-of-town relatives and friends we would invite, we always had at least 25 people for dinner. That meant setting up extra tables and chairs in the living room to extend our dining room table.

We never complained about the extra work, but instead took great pride in being part of it all. As we worked, the atmosphere was charged with excitement. It seems like every year we tried to make it even more special than the last. Everyone dressed in their Sunday best, and so all of us girls would put on one of Grandma’s starched and pressed homemade aprons. Some of the jobs we girls had from the time we were very young were stuffing celery sticks with cream cheese, filling our mom's pretty cut glass dishes with olives and pickles, ironing tablecloths and cloth napkins, and setting the table with the beautiful china from the hutch. We always made place cards and spent a lot of time trying to figure out who should sit where. As guests arrived, we would offer appetizers, such as cheese and crackers and our stuffed celery sticks.

My dad always insisted on a crackling fire to add to the festive atmosphere, even though by the time everyone got there, it would get way too warm in the rooms! But he loved the tradition. It puts a smile on my face to remember how happy it made him. My dad loved nothing more than having his large family gather together for holidays.

For many years, even after we all grew up and moved away from home, we came back for Thanksgiving. Each year the numbers grew as we found a place at the table for our own children as well. Mom loved doing this holiday more than any other. She was just like a mother hen gathering her chicks together.

Eventually we just became too large of an extended family to all gather in one home, so we had to start dividing up. Mine became one of the "host" homes...and a baton was passed. I kept many of the same traditions we had when I was growing up, and added a few of my own. As everyone gathered around the table, we would either have an appropriate Thanksgiving reading, some singing, or go around the table with each one telling something they were thankful for.

One year I made a small twig tree which I had in the middle of the kitchen table. Around it were construction paper leaves in fall colors with strings attached. As each guest arrived, they wrote something they were thankful for on the leaf and hung it on the tree. It made a nice centerpiece. To this day I love setting a beautiful table and making guests feel pampered. I’m sure it all stems back to my great memories of the way our family celebrated the holiday. I still like the simple appetizers, and usually have a few on the kitchen counter to hold folks over till everyone arrives and dinner is served.

We have some younger friends whose extended families are out of state and they often join us for Thanksgiving. A few years back they came early to help out. Something I like to do is have some hot cider steaming on the stove. My friend beamed as she carried hot cups to the front door to greet the guests while her husband helped by hanging the coats. How could a guest not feel welcomed? That same year we had a special reading about the history of the first Thanksgiving, and we also had guitar music and singing by our two sons and a soon-to-be daughter-in-law. Precious memories.

Sadly, many of us are geographically scattered now so it is rare that we all are together on Thanksgiving. But with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, we are still too large a group to be at any one house. Last year we tried something different. We rented the party room at mom's condo so at least as many as could make it would be all together in one place. The experiment worked out really well, and so this year we are doing the same. While my heart resists the necessary changes in long standing traditions, I’m looking forward to doing it again, knowing that being together as family trumps all. With grateful hearts, we will be thankful once again for that blessing.


*I recently joined a Christian Writers Group at our church and I needed to write something Thanksgiving-related this week. I reworked a post I did last year, trying to make adjustments according to critiques I've had so far. I'm really excited to be in this group and I know I will learn a lot! Thought I would post this week's work ~ please be gentle readers!

Thrifted Christmas Outfits for the Grandkids

Well, it all started out with the jumper that I bought at the Country Living Fair in September for my granddaughter, Elylah. I was so drawn to the colors...and then I had the idea to thrift shop for the other grandkids, the three boys, to find outfits to coordinate with the "inspiration" piece! I've purchased new outfits for all of them each year for Christmas, but the thrill of the hunt, plus the economy in general, pulled me to the thrift shops this year. Even though Elylah's outfit is new, I did find a pair of new looking black patent leather shoes with a strap and a little Cuban heel on them for $2. I just forgot to take a picture of them!

I felt extremely fortunate to find this brand new looking sweater for my oldest grandson, Deacon for $2. It is a high quality, dressy looking pullover. Then the search was on for pants and a shirt...

I found these black wide-wale cords with a cuff, and this black and white dress shirt in size 5, both by Gymboree, and both brand new looking, for a total of $8.

For Deacon's little brother Owen, I spotted a nice pair of black cords by Healthtex, the vest and white dress shirt, in size 3T, all for $3.75!

Last, but not least, and carrying through with the corduroy theme and the color scheme, I found this Gymboree shirt and Okie-Dokie corduroy pants for Ethan in size 2T for a total of $3.

I'm so excited we will all be together next week for Thanksgiving, and I've already made an appointment with Picture People to have a professional photo shoot of all of us! The 6 adults are on their own to choose their coordinating outfits...but I had a lot of fun thrifting this year.

Everything is washed, ironed, and ready to go! What do you think?

Nov 17, 2010

I can't believe I won!!!

My sweet friend Jackie over at Fresh Oil Today held a Fall give-away and I won! I am enjoying each and every item, but especially blessing her for her generosity. THANK YOU JACKIE!
Now you all go and pay her blog a quick visit!!! She's going to have a Christmas give-away too, so watch for it and maybe YOU will win!

Fall Wrap-Up...

As many of you know, I entered the Fall season kicking and screaming. It's not that I dislike Autumn...but rather that I love Summer so much and it is such a short season here in NE Ohio. However, with just a few really cold or rainy days, we have had a most beautiful and moderate Fall this year, and I have enjoyed "living in the moment" rather than wishing I was back in Summer.

But I have to warn you...There is only one week of Fall left, because the Christmas season starts the day after Thanksgiving! And I am chomping at the bit...

But before I get ahead of myself, I thought I'd post a few random photos ...

Here's a wreath I made for my friend, Jennifer...

Her hubby Ken lost his job this Fall, and she has been doing some temporary work from home to help hold things together...

So one day recently, another friend and I decided to kidnap Jennifer for an afternoon (with Ken's foreknowledge and blessing of course) and we showed up at her door to surprise her...

Rachel had kept Ken's and Jen's 4 year old all morning to give them a quiet house to get some work done...and she thought Rachel was just returning him home. But instead, I showed up too, with their supper of home made chicken noodle soup, bread, salad, and coffee cake.

That way, we could spend a guilt-free afternoon eating at one of our favorite Middle East restaurants, Aladdins...

ending with dessert and lattes at Caribou Coffee! Good times, good friends...and I'm happy to say that Ken will start a new job the first of next month! Thank you Lord!

Here's the large wreath I've used on my door this Fall. I found it at the flea market for only $6!

Until about 2 years ago, my kitchen was green and pink. So I always had trouble with the Fall decorations in there. Now it is yellow, barn red, and navy. I've been collecting these amber colored glass pieces from thrift stores, and I've enjoyed being able to use these and things with the other Fall colors now...

I truly am going to miss these days...

My granddaughter and the little boy next door, playing in the leaves before we raked them last weekend...those leaves that were still on the tree a few days ago are pretty much down now...

The costumes are put away...and so is the candy...!

And I just have one more week to look forward to while enjoying the last of the my SC family will be driving up to spend Thanksgiving with us!

So many blessings we have enjoyed this past year...and so many more to look forward to. Before I get overwhelmed with Christmas, I wanted to be sure you knew OUR news!!! This coming March we are expecting grandbaby #5, another baby boy to join two big brothers, Deacon and Owen in SC...and grandbaby #6, a girl to bless big sister Elylah and big brother Ethan here in Ohio.

I might be in the "Autumn" of my life, but it is a GOOD season, and I am determined to count each day as a gift from God. How are you feeling about whatever season of life you are in?

Nov 14, 2010

Rahab Ministries

My hubby and I will soon be doing a new ministry at our church. It will involve communicating to members about the various local outreach efforts that our church supports so that more folks can become educated as to the needs and hopefully will want to participate in these outreaches. As part of our own educational process, we have set out to get to know some of these ministries first hand ourselves.

Last Friday night, we attended a benefit concert for a street outreach in Akron, Ohio called Rahab Ministries. The fascinating story of Rahab in the Bible can be found in the book of Joshua, Chapter 2. Though Rahab was a prostitute, she had heard of the mighty acts of the God of Israel, and in spite of her personal past, she reached out in faith and believed He could save her and her family. She later married an Israelite, and actually became a physical ancestor in the lineage of Jesus Christ. How amazing is that?

RAHAB also has become an acronym for this ministry: Reaching Above Hopelessness and Brokenness. Hundreds of women in this city are hopelessly lost prostitutes, drug addicted, involved in criminal behavior, and roaming the streets without a meaningful purpose to their lives. Rahab Ministries literally goes to where these women are and snatches many of them from the grip of the evil that holds them captive by offering them food, clothing, safe shelter and a Christ-centered message of hope and healing.

Several women told snippets of their story at this event. They are all "in process", working through the steps they need to take to turn their lives around. For some, this means regaining custody of their children. For others, it means continuing with their education. For all of them, it means committing their lives to the One who gave His life for them. It is not an easy road, and there are slips and setbacks along the way. Rahab Ministries is there for them, waiting with open arms when they, like the prodigal son, return to their senses if in their weakness they wander away and relapse. As each woman came up to speak, their "before" photo was shown on a big screen ...their mugshot. All the women who talked had been arrested at some point. Beside their photo were words they used to describe how they felt about themselves before Rahab Ministries introduced them to the Gospel~~words like lost, forgotten, alone, hopeless, destroyed, addict, empty, numb.

One woman who spoke had been drug-addicted for 23 long years. She was miraculously delivered from that life three years ago through the efforts of Rahab Ministries and the amazing grace of God. Today she attends The University of Akron and has a vision to open a recovery house for women with the help of Rahab Ministries. Her new life verse is Philippians 1:6: "...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."

Another woman who once saw herself as a soldier in Satan's army, said that someone came by and gave her a hug, and today she is a new creation. She says her new name is Victor, and she is moving forward in confidence and peace.

Each woman had their own story to tell, their own personal experience as they have left their old life behind and encountered the Living God who loves them more than they could ever have imagined.

All of this because two women in our area had a vision for reaching out with compassion. Like Jesus, Rahab Ministries refuses to let go. They believe in modern day miracles because they witness them every day. As we like to say here in Akron, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Once again, I have been humbled and amazed. God is opening my eyes and my heart wider all the time. Though I have been a Christian for over 50 years, sometimes I feel like I'm only just beginning to know Jesus. What about you?

Matthew 25: 31-46

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Nov 10, 2010

Please meet Anne Beiler, Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels

Have you ever enjoyed one of those amazing cinnamon sugar pretzels from Auntie Anne's while browsing through your favorite mall? I love the one with the raisins and I always get the sugar frosting "dip" to go with it, find a bench and eat my pretzel with a cup of coffee and sit and "people watch" for a while. YUM!

For 17 years, from 1988, when Anne first started selling soft pretzels at a local farmer's market, until 2005 when the Beilers decided to sell the Company, the business grew and grew beyond all imaginable expectations. Today there are 300 franchises in 20 countries, and over 950 locations worldwide.

I'd actually met Anne two other times before hearing her tell her life story last Friday night. Once was about 10 years ago when she spoke at a women's event at our church. That time she talked about how God had blessed her business. Then a year ago I met her at the annual Emerge Ministries Banquet. She has been on their Board for years, and my brother, a Christian psychologist at Emerge, introduced me to her. But until the other night I had no knowledge of her personal life~~all I knew was that she was "famous" and I sure liked Auntie Anne's pretzels. I also never knew Anne's connection with Emerge Ministries, other than that she served on the Board. I had no idea that she feels the counseling she received there saved her sanity, her marriage, her family, and her very life.

Nothing could have prepared me for the story I was about to hear. Talk about a "twisted" life~~that was Anne Beiler's. Anne and her seven siblings grew up in the Amish/Mennonite community in Lancaster County, PA. Her formal education was complete with the 8th grade. She married young, and lost her first child in a tragic farm accident. Her life then went into a tailspin that was out of control for years.

At her most vulnerable moment, she fell victim to the paralyzing abuse of spiritual power perpetrated by one who should have been the hands, feet, and voice of God's comfort and healing. Instead, she stayed in the clutches of that evil one for six long years. Many other personal issues surfaced and things just kept going from bad to worse.

Through it all, her husband Jonas stayed with her and miraculously they eventually found solid Christian counseling. In her book, Twist of Faith, Anne tells the whole story~~many things she kept secret for too many long years. She learned that the key to healing was in confession, forgiveness, and in the undeserved grace of God.

Today, Anne and Jonas Beiler are in a position to "give back" and that is exactly what they do. They have several companies and organizations which you can read about by clicking the tabs at their website. And they go around the country telling their story, firmly believing they can do no less after they have been blessed so much, both in their personal lives and with the business.

I feel so blessed to have heard this story from Anne personally. It is a testimony of the power of the love of God. I spent the past weekend reading her book, and you can buy it from if you are interested. When she autographed my copy, she wrote the words that have become her motto: "free indeed". The Scripture verse she shared that has stuck with me is this one:

"...confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed" James 5:16

My hubby Bob and me with Anne Beiler, and our good friends Dick and Carol Heasley in the background
November 5, 2010

Nov 7, 2010

Thrifty Christmas on my mind...

47 days till Christmas!

When I stopped by my favorite Thrift Store last week, I was surprised at how many Christmas items were already on the shelves. It's a little hard to tell how cute these items really are in the photos...

...a nice wooden wall plaque with a herald angel that says "Peace on Earth" and is about 8 inches wide, 79 cents...

...a set of three wooden trees, also 79 cents...

...this darling Christmas mouse is a gag gift for someone who has had a few unwelcomed visits from mice this year...29 cents

...For the past couple years I have purchased ornaments for each of our kids and grandkids, spending $5 - $15 each. This year I decided I would thrift shop for nice ones. I will add the name of one of my grandchildren and the year on this ornament with a fine black is about 5 inches long and made out of some kind of synthetic clay product...79 cents...

...I can never have enough little Christmas trees...this one stands about 15 inches high and came with nice quality miniature wooden ornaments for 99 cents...

...Whenever I see these little tins I pick them up and use them to either hold a candle or potpouri. This one is small, about 3 inches in diameter, and cost 29 cents.

Another thing I decided to do this year is thrift shop for the grandchildren's Christmas outfits. I'm hoping we can get a family photo made when we are all together at Thanksgiving. When hubby and I went to the Country Living Fair in Columbus, OH in September for our anniversary, I found a handmade Christmas jumper for our granddaughter. I thought it would be fun to try to color coordinate the kids for the photo shoot, keying off the colors in the jumper...

I only need to find one more item to have all four outfits complete...and I'll then show you!

I've also been shopping for gifts since September. I've been very deliberately trying to keep it a whole lot more simple this year, looking for thoughtful gifts but not going overboard as I have tended to do in the past. With the economy the way it is, it just does not seem appropriate to me to go all out...and I'm feeling a lot less stress already. I'm looking forward to spending good quality time with my friends and family, enjoying crafts and baking with the grandchildren, decorating economically, mostly with things I already have, and most of all, keeping Christmas in a way that will please the One it is all about!

What are some of your thoughts about Christmas preparations this year?

Nov 5, 2010

Check out the Fabulous Fall Give-Away!!

My friend Jackie over at Fresh Oil Today is offering this amazing Fall give-away...check out her blog and follow the steps for several chances to win it!