Saturday, December 13, 2008

"The Invisible Woman"

Wow! My daughter just shared this video with me and if you have ever felt like you're invisible and that nobody notices or even cares then you need to watch this. I think we've all felt like this at one time or another. I know I have. Thanks for sharing this with me, Kayla.

Praise God that He notices and He cares and He's the One we serve anyways. Colossians 3:23 says "And whatsoever ye do , do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Last Straw

I just read this story, "The Last Straw" while over at the "Executive Homemaker", (which looks like it was contributed by the Tip Junkie) and I just had to share it on here. It's a little long but well worth the read. There are a lot of touching stories over there to help get our minds back on the Reason for the Christmas season. Read this story first and then go on over and take a look.

The Last Straw
-Paula McDonald-

Everyone, unfortunately, was cooped up in the house that typical gray winter afternoon. And, as usual, the four little McNeals were at it again, teasing each other, squabbling, bickering, always fighting over their toys.

At times like this, Ellen was almost ready to believe that her children didn’t love each other, even though she knew that wasn’t true. All brothers and sisters fight sometimes, of course, but lately her lively little bunch had been particularly horrid to each other, especially Eric and Kelly, who were only a year apart. The two of them seemed determined to spend the whole long winter making each other miserable. “Give me that, It’s mine!” Kelly screamed, her voice shrill. “It is not! I had it first.” Eric answered stubbornly.

Ellen sighed as she listened to the latest argument. With Christmas only a month away, the house seemed sadly lacking Christmas spirit.

This was supposed to be the season of sharing and love, of warm feelings and happy hearts. A home needed more than just pretty packages and twinkling lights on a tree to fill the holidays with joy.

Ellen had only one idea. Years ago, her grandmother had told her about an old custom that helped people discover the true meaning of Christmas. Perhaps it would work for her family this year. It was certainly worth a try.

She gathered the children together and lined them up on the couch, tallest to smallest: Eric, Kelly, Linda and Mike. “How would you kids like to start a new family tradition this year?” She asked. “It’s like a game, but it can only be played by people who can keep a secret. Can everyone here do that?” “I can!”” shouted Eric. “I can keep a secret better than him,” yelled Kelly. “I can do it!” chimed in Lisa. “Me too. Me too.” Squealed little Mike. I’m big enough.” “Well then, this is how the game works,” Ellen explained. This year we’re going to surprise Baby Jesus when he comes on Christmas Eve by making Him the softest bed in the world. We’re going to fill a little crib with the straw to make it comfortable. But here’s the secret part. The straw we put in will measure the good deeds we’ve done, but we won’t tell anyone who we’re doing them for.” The children looked confused. “But how will Jesus know it’s His bed?” Kelly asked. “He’ll know,” said Ellen. “He’ll recognize it by the love we put in to make it soft.” “But who will we do the good deeds for?” Asked Eric, still a little confused. “We’ll do them for each other. Once a week we’ll put all of our names in a hat, mine and Daddy’s too. Then we’ll each pick out a different name. Whoever’s name we draw, we’ll do kind deeds for that person for a whole week. But you can’t tell anyone else whose name you’ve chosen. We’ll each try to do as many favors for our special person as we can without getting caught, and for every good deed we do, we’ll put another straw in the crib.” “Like being a spy!” squealed Lisa. “But what if I pick someone’s name that I don’t like?” Kelly frowned. Ellen thought about it for a minute. “Maybe you could use an extra fat piece of straw. And think how much faster the fat straws will fill up our crib. We’ll use the cradle in the attic” she said. “And we can all go to the field behind the school for the straw.”

Without a single argument, the children bundled into their wool hats and mittens, laughing and tumbling out of the house. The field had been covered with tall grass in the summer, but now, dead and dried, the golden stalks looked just like real straw. They carefully selected handfuls and placed them in the large box they had carried with them. “That’s enough,” Ellen laughed when the box was almost overflowing. “Remember it’s only a small cradle.”

So home they went to spread their straw carefully on a large tray Ellen never used. Eric, because he was the oldest, was given the responsibility of climbing into the attic and bringing down the cradle.

“We’ll pick names as soon as Daddy comes home for dinner,” Ellen said, with a smile at the thought of Mark’s pleased reaction to the children’s transformed faces and voices, filled now with excited anticipation rather than annoyance.

At the supper table that night, six pieces of paper were folded and shaken around in Mark’s furry winter hat, and the drawing began. Kelly picked first and immediately started to giggle. Lisa reached into the hat next, trying hard to look like a serious spy. Mike couldn’t read yet, so Mark whispered the name in his ear. Then Mike quickly ate his little wad of paper so no one would ever learn the identity of his secret person. Eric was the next to choose, and as he unfolded his scrap of paper, a frown creased his forehead. But he stuffed the name quickly into his pocket and said nothing. Ellen and Mark selected names and the family was ready to begin.

The next week that followed was filled with surprises. It seemed the McNeal house had suddenly been invaded by an army of invisible elves. Kelly would walk into her room at bedtime to find her nightgown neatly laid out and her bed turned down. Someone cleaned up the sawdust from under the workbench without being asked. The jelly blobs magically disappeared every morning. When Eric was brushing his teeth, someone crept quietly into his room and made the bed. It wasn’t made perfectly, but it was made. That particular little elf must have had short arms because he couldn’t seem to reach the middle. “Where are my shoes?” Mark asked one morning. No one seemed to know, but suddenly, before he left for work, they were back in his closet again, freshly shined.

Ellen noticed other changes during that week too. The children weren’t teasing or fighting as much. An argument would start, and then suddenly stop right in the middle for no apparent reason. Even Eric and Kelly seemed to be getting along better and bickering less. In fact, there were times when all the children could be seen smiling secret smiles and giggling to themselves. And slowly, one by one, the first straws began to appear in the crib. Just a few, then a few more each day. By the end of the first week a little pile had accumulated.

Everyone was anxious to pick new names, and this time there was more laughter and merriment than there had been the first time. Except for Eric. Once again, he unfolded his scrap of paper, glanced at it, and stuffed it in his pocket without a word.

The second week brought more astonishing events, and the little pile of straw in the manger grew higher and softer. There was more laughter, less teasing, and hardly any arguments could be heard around the house. Only Eric had been unusually quiet and sometimes Ellen would catch him looking a little sad. But the straws in the manger continued to pile up.

At last it was almost Christmas. They chose names for the final time on the night before Christmas Eve. So they sat around the table waiting for the last set of names to be shaken in the hat, the children smiled as they looked at their hefty pile of straws. They all knew it was comfortable and soft, but there was one day left and they could still make it a little deeper, a little softer, and they were going to try.

For the last time the hat was passed around the table. Mike picked out a name, and again quickly ate the paper as he had done each week. Lisa unfolded hers carefully under the table, peeked at it and then hunched up her little shoulders, smiling. Kelly reached into the hat and grinned from ear to ear when she saw the name. Ellen and Mark each took their turn and handed the hat with the last name to Eric. As he unfolded the scrap of paper and glanced at it his face crumpled and he seemed about to cry. Without a word he turned and ran from the room.

Everyone immediately jumped up from the table, but Ellen stopped them. “No! Stay where you are,” she said firmly. “I’ll go.” In his room, Eric was trying to pull on his coat with one hand while he picked up a small cardboard suitcase with the other. “I have to leave,” he said quietly through his tears. “If I don’t, I’ll spoil Christmas.” “But why? And where are you going?” “I can sleep in my snow fort for a couple of days. I’ll come home right after Christmas, I promise.”

Ellen started to say something about freezing and snow and no mittens or hats, but Mark, who had come up behind her, gently laid his hand on her arm and shook his head. The front door closed, and together they watched from the window as the little figure with the sadly slumped shoulders trudged across the street and sat down on a snow bank on the corner. It was dark outside, and cold, and a few flurries drifted down the small boy and his suitcase. “Give him a few more minutes alone,” said Mark quietly. “I think he needs that. Then you can talk to him.”

The huddled figure was already dusted with white when Ellen walked across the street and sat down beside him on the snow bank. “What is it, Eric? You’ve been so good these last few weeks, but I know something’s been bothering you since we first started the crib. Can you tell me, honey?” “Ah, Mom . . . Don’t you see?” He sniffed. “I tried so hard, but I can’t do it anymore, and now I’m going to wreck Christmas for everybody.” The little boy choked. “You just don’t know. I got Kelly’s name every time! And I hate Kelly! I tried, Mom. I really did. I snuck in her room every night and fixed her bed, I even laid out her crummy nightgown. I let her use my racecar one day, but she smashed it right into the wall like always! Every week, when we picked new names, I thought it would be over. Tonight, when I got her name again, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. If I try, I’ll probably punch her instead. If I stay home and beat Kelly up, I’ll spoil Christmas for everybody.”

The two of them sat there quietly for a few minutes and then Ellen spoke softly. “Eric, I’m so proud of you. Every good deed you did should count double because it was hard for you to be nice to Kelly for so long. But you did those good deeds anyway, one straw at a time. You gave your love when it wasn’t easy to give. And maybe that’s what the spirit of Christmas is really all about. And maybe it’s the hard good deeds and the difficult straws that make that little crib special. You’re the one who’s probably added the most important straws this year.” Ellen paused, stroking his head pressed lightly against her shoulder. “Now, how would you like a chance to earn a few easy straws like the rest of us? I still have the name I picked in my pocket, and I haven’t looked at it yet. Why don’t we switch, for the last day? And it will be our secret.” Eric lifted his head and looked at her face. His eyes wide, “That’s not cheating?” “It’s not cheating.” And together they dried the tears, brushed off the snow and walked back to the house.

The next day the whole family was busy cooking and straightening up the house for Christmas Day, wrapping last minute presents and trying hard to keep from bursting with excitement. But even with all the activity and eagerness, a flurry of new straws piled up in the crib, and by nightfall the little manger was almost overflowing. A different times while passing by, each member of the family, big and small, would pause and look at the wonderful crib for a moment, then smile before going on. But . . . who could really know? One more still might make a difference.

For that reason, just before bedtime, Ellen tiptoed quietly to Kelly’s room to lay out the little blue nightgown and turn down the bed. But she stopped in the doorway, surprised. Someone had already been there. The nightgown was laid across the bed, and a small red racecar had been placed next to it on the pillow.

The last straw was Eric’s after all.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Grandsons are so fun!

Our grandsons stayed the night with us on Friday night. We had a wonderful time with the boys. We played games, read a story and watched a Christmas movie complete with the popcorn. The next day they helped Papa Geno outside with some Christmas decorations. He made their favorite breakfast~pancakes of course! I would have made it but had an early morning appointment. The boys were just as satisfied no matter which of us made them~although, they did ask for theirs with chocolate chips and Papa Geno said no, that if they wanted them that way they'd have to have Grandma make them for them next time they're over. Ahh! Poor deprived boys! No chocolate chip pancakes! Mean ol' Papa Geno! Not! They have fun with him, too. Grandma doesn't do the 4-wheeler stuff with them and doesn't make near as good of car sounds as Papa Geno. "What kind of car makes that sound, Grandma? We've never heard that before." Ha! Ha! Funny boys!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Great Advent Idea

I just came across this Advent idea for kids. I found it over at Blissfully Domestic. There are a lot of great ideas there. My kids are grown but I let my daughters know about this for my grandkids. I'd have to say it's one of the best I've seen and like she says if you have more than one child they can take turns being the one to pick the book.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Our Friend Ross

I know it's been a little bit since I posted. I had every intention of writing about our Thanksgiving and different things but we just lost one of our good friends to a motorcycle accident the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Needless to say, I haven't felt like writing much at all. What do you say? We were supposed to spend Thanksgiving at my sister's house but just didn't feel like celebrating much plus we would have had to drive right past where our friend had just died. I know Ross loved the Lord and is at home with Him but he was only 46 and still has two kids at home. He has two older ones as well and a precious brand new grandson that he was so proud of. I visited with his wife for a while Thanksgiving morning. Then after my husband and I talked it over we decided we would go on and go to my sister's. We did have a nice time there with family and got to spend fun time with my grandsons which we always enjoy so it was good we went. Our friend, Ross, loved his family, loved being on his motorcycle, loved writing poems, loved taking pictures and loved the Lord. He was so quick witted and funny. He always had a different way of looking at things that would just crack you up. He was quick to help you out if you needed it. He was extremely smart and like I told him sometimes too smart for his own good. He was also tender hearted when it came to things with his family and for such a "tough talking" guy he could be in tears in an instant when it concerned his family. He leaves behind 2 sons and 2 daughters and his not quite 2 month old grandson who was born about 3 months early. My daughter said that she wondered if since God knew Ross' time if maybe that was why the baby was born so early so that maybe Ross could get to spend all the time with him that he did. He was very proud of the little guy. I thought that was a good thought to have. I know he definitely brought joy to his Papa's heart. I want to share a couple of pictures with you that made me think of Ross. The first two are of the front and back of signs at a veterinary clinic in town. I thought the vet's sense of humor was something that Ross would have laughed at.

Ross' funeral was today so the other pictures I want to share are of the sky tonight. I guess they made me think of him because I figured he'd have been right out there with his camera getting pictures of these if he'd been here.

This last one that I'll share with you tonight is of the moon and the planets Venus and Jupiter. They didn't show up real clear with my camera but you can see them. They are the two little specks on the picture. We had forgotten that you were supposed to be able to see these all together until we heard it on the radio on the way home. I just thought this was cool to be able to see it tonight. You may have to click on the picture to see it bigger but they really are there. It's not just dust on your computer screen. ;-)

We will sure miss our good friend and the joy & laughter he brought.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Check Out Our New Blog

My daughter, Kayla, and I just started a new blog together with some of our favorite recipes. We'd sure love for you to come over and check it out. The blog is called Tried and True Cafe and we will be sharing recipes that we've tried that we know our friends and family like. We hope you will like them as well if you decide to try them.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I did it!

Wow! I can't believe it's been so long since I've written. We have been so busy at work that I've been just way too tired to even think of what to write on here. Good news, though. I did it! ... after MUCH prayer I gave my resignation at work. Not an easy thing to do. I have loved my job...and yes, sometimes even hated my job...but the people I work with have to be some of the most wonderful people in the world to work with and to call my friends. They are always willing to stop what they're doing and jump in and help wherever there's a need. They are hard workers and have such a heart for others and are wonderful, godly examples in my life. They are very inspirational to me. That was the hard part of the job to leave. Plus there have been many other rewarding parts of the job. Especially all the people I've gotten to know and work with over the last 5 plus years. Like the people that worked in the same building with us when we were at the Rec Center and the people that come in to the office for different reasons or have volunteered and been such a blessing to me and to others that I've had the privilege of getting to know. There are also the things that I learned while on the job. It has stretched me in ways that I never would have thought and to do things I don't think I would've done, like leading a ladies Bible study or praying out loud in front of a group of people or organizing things that needed to be done. Yes, there have been good things about the job but it has also been very life consuming in that I'm too mentally exhausted some days to feel like doing anything after I'm off or I've had to work so late that I don't have time to do the special things I'd like to do anyways. But my friend that I'm training to take over for me seems more organized than me so hopefully the job won't consume her like it has me. She is very smart and is a quick learner and one of the wonderful, godly people that I've worked with all this time so she knows the way things work around there already.
A friend just passed away about a month ago now and she had said she had a lot of things that she wanted to do with her life and then she was gone. That breaks my heart. I know that after that she also said that she was ready, that she knew where she was going and that she'd had a wonderful life but it really got me thinking more seriously about my "life consuming" job. I'd like to make a difference in other's lives, to be a blessing to others, to enjoy the life God has given me without "living to work". I know with the economy being the way it is that it may not "seem" like the best time to be quitting a job but I feel like it's God's time for me to and that far outweighs everything else. I also realized that even though I may be leaving the job that I still have the friendship with the people I work with and I can still stop by and help them out with different things around there and still get together and do other fun things with them. I told my boss that I could stay until the end of the year since this is such a busy time of year and to get someone trained. Then since I won't be sitting behind a desk most of the day I'm looking forward to maybe getting into shape (hopefully) and spending time with my new granddaughter playing with my grandsons and making cards and painting pictures, snow skiing, NOT! (this is more what I'd look like if I went skiing). I also want to finally get my house thoroughly cleaned and do some projects to fix up the house and spend time hanging out with friends again although I do have another job lined up already but one that I can do in my time and leave the job there when I'm done ... and pays more...woo hoo! Okay, that's not really what it's all about but that is a nice bonus as well. I really do want to be available for what God has for me to do.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Baby Shower

My daughter's baby shower was today. It was a brunch baby shower. She had a lot of friends and family there and had a really good time. She was blessed with a lot of nice gifts, too. My granddaughter is going to be one very nicely dressed little girl. She got so many adorable outfits. I can't wait to see them on her. I'm glad the shower turned out so nice and the weather outside couldn't have been any nicer for the first day of November. Here are some pictures from the shower.

It was a fall theme so this was the greeter...

He also watched over the baby gifts.

Below were a few of the gifts that were given away as door prizes.

The table decorations...

The pretty square plates below held the pumpkin cakes later in the shower.

This was the delicious pumpkin cake dessert that Jennifer, my daughter Kayla's friend, made for the shower. It was so moist and so good! I definitely want this recipe!

This cute little "pumpkin" was one of the guests along with her mommy.

A couple more guests...The one on the right is my niece, Amanda, with her best friend, Hannah, who is like my niece too.

This is my beautiful daughter, Kayla, opening some of her gifts.

and here are some of the gifts...

Her grandma made this cute blanket...

If you look really close at the picture above you can get a glimpse of my granddaughter.
She is about 2 pounds right now.

Well, that's about it for the shower pictures. Thanks for taking a peek. Don't forget to set your clocks back tonight.