Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!


Greetings! Welcome to my Holiday Open House! The festivities begin in the foyer, where a natural swag made from cedar and berries from our yard festoons the mirror. Below, the reason for the season is highlighted with my Fontanini nativity scene. A garland (not natural, and kind of pitiful after looking at the Nester's inspiration garland--oh, well, that's something to aspire to for next year!) graces the stairwell bannister. Here are some close-ups:

These pieces in the nativity scene get rearranged a couple of times a day by creative little fingers. That's okay because they won't break!
I received the creche and Holy Family figures at a Christmas shower before our wedding almost ten years ago, and my mom helps me to add to my collection each year.
Come on in! To your right is the living room, where the formal tree resides.

The children picked out the angel tree topper, which is lovely--except for the fact that it blinks, which drives me crazy!
When we first got married, we had very few ornaments, rather than some of our childhood ones. Here are some of my favorites that we've collected over the years.

Those silver photo-frame ornaments are from Exposures and are dated on the back with an engraved silver tag. My sister has given us those, and they are my favorite ornaments on the tree! (Sorry for the glare of the top one; that frame houses last year's Christmas card pic of Will--he's just so bright!;)) The brass Celtic cross was a gift at my Christmas shower and holds even more meaning because of our honeymoon trip to Ireland. The gold and red crown ornament suspsended by a red ribbon was a souvenir my husband brought me from a trip to London. It commemorates Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee. The white ornaments (gingerbread angel and star) are part of my daughter's Wedgwood ornament collection. It is a tradition that each year she and her brother receive a new ornament, as well as a Christmas picture book and a pair of Christmas pjs.

Here atop the piano is a nativity scene that my grandmother gave me. I love the purity of the all white. My mother-in-law gave me the angels that spell Noel, and I think they go together perfectly!

This is our Advent wreath and the book that we're reading each night, Jotham's Journey. This is a new tradition for us and has already become such a special time for our family. Mom found the wreath for me, and I put the candles in various crystal candlesticks I had and just placed them inside the wreath.

Here is the dining room with its holiday decor.
When I was registering my china at a local store, the owner told me that Federal Platinum had Christmas accent plates and mugs but that they were going to be discontinued. If I liked them, she had enough for a setting for twelve. I registered them and am so glad I did. I love the silver filigree ornaments on the white.

Here is the buffet decorated to coordinate. I just put some glass and silver ornaments in a crystal bowl, tied a silver bowl around it and then put it on an upside down bowl to give it some height. I found the sparkly silver branches at Wal-Mart the other day.
Here is a corner of the kitchen that I've filled with an unintended collection of items with the Believe motif. They make me happy to look at them. In years past I've put a small poinsettia in the flower pot, but I thought I might want to put something more kitchen-related in it this year. Maybe some candy canes?

Here are a few pictures of everyday Christmas accent pieces displayed in the hutch. I've accented with cedar and berries again, along with red ribbon.

I love these whimsical Santa frames for the children's Christmas card pictures. Would you believe that I got them from Wal-Mart?
All the ornaments that the kids have made grace this tree in the playroom.

Here is the mantel in the den. I kept the same arrangment from the fall, simply changing out the mini pumpkins for red ornaments.
When I read the Nester's tutorial for a fabulous garland, I had already hung mine and was too lazy to take it down. Instead, I added some fake berries and feathers (Wal-Mart strikes again) and then tucked in some cedar and natural berries from my yard.

Thanks for dropping by! Good tidings to you and all of your kin (or kids, as Emily Anne likes to sing it!)!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Preparing for the Season of Preparation

Can you believe that it is already so close to Thanksgiving? We are having both sides of my family here this year, and I am definitely getting into the holiday spirit.

Close on the heels of Thanksgiving will come Advent. I have already ordered Jotham's Journey, to be read after dinner with the lighting of our Advent wreath (supplies yet to be purchased!). I have read such wonderful things about this book (and the other two in the series) and was thrilled to find it back in print.

Today I read a post that fueled my enthusiasm for a meaningful Advent season for our family. Shannon (of Rocks in My Dryer) wrote about her family's Jesse Tree. I am so excited to create this new tradition for our family. I am planning to replace our daily Bible reading in Catherine Vos's A Child's Story Bible with the Jesse Tree devotionals and then let Emily Anne and Will take turns hanging the symbolic ornament. I can't wait to start hunting down and creating the ornaments. I'll post when our collection is complete.

So, what does your family do for Advent?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Great Thanksgiving Read-Alouds

As Thanksgiving approaches, I went on a quest to find some great books that would spark interest in and learning about this American holiday. I used the wonderful tool that is the online libary catalog and reserved many books about Thanksgiving. We read through most of them last week, and I've culled the ones we enjoyed most and have listed them below:

  • This First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Story by Laura Krauss Melmed is one of our favorites. It has rhyming text and shows 1 sleeping pilgrim, 2 giggling Wamanoag girls, etc., all the way up to 12 tables brimming with food and friends at the Thanksgiving feast. The illustrations are wonderful, and not only do they help the smallest ones to count up to twelve, there are various other things in the illustrations to find and count, including a tricky turkey on each page. We even counted all the pilgrims and Indians on the last page--146!
  • Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley is narrated by a brother and sister who are taken back into time by their grandmother to experience the very first Thanksgiving Day. The story line really held the interest of my children, and the book is chock full of interesting details about the way the Pilgrims lived. In addition to the regular text, the illustrations also include those speech balloons (like in cartoons), which were a little awkward to read, but they contained such great tidbits of interesting information, I couldn't skip over them.
  • The First Thanksgiving by Garnet Jackson is a wonderful introduction to the origins of this holiday. This nonfiction book is written in a simple but engaging style with pictures that my children really enjoyed. It is basic, simple, and thorough and would be a great way to start your Thanksgiving read-alouds.
  • Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson was a learning experience for me. This book, with detailed and humorous pictures, tells the story of Sarah Hale, who persistently petitioned politicians and presidents (How's that for alliteration?) over forty years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday. Sarah was an interesting woman who raised five children, was an editor of magazines, and the author of "Mary Had a Little Lamb." The book contains a nonfiction addendum at the back with more facts on Sarah's life, the history of Thanksgiving, and what life was like in 1863 (the year Thanksgiving became a national holiday). The theme of one person able to make a difference through persistence is something I am glad my children were exposed to in this book.

Happy Reading! Aren't you thankful for good books?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Instruction in Righteousness

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16

My daughter recently turned five. It seems as though she skipped eight years and became thirteen overnight. Every request is met with a pouty face, an excuse to delay or avoid said request, or a disrespectful "No!" Complaints are rampant; every tiny inconvenience is magnified to mammoth proportions. Tuesday I had had enough of this attitude.

Before I reacted in the moment, as I usually do, I stopped to consider my own reactions. Often I was responding in kind, complaining about her complaints or serving up my own disrespect in a it's-my-way-or-else command that bulldozed over her feelings. I did not like the image this perusal conjured up, and I decided to try another tack.

I pulled down from the bookshelf For Instruction in Righteousness, a book published by Doorposts. It is filled with scripture on various Biblical character traits and is organized by problems. For each problem, Bible verses are listed that provide a handy reference of what the Bible has to say about this sin, discipline ideas and object lessons are highlighted, and stories of Biblical figures who indulged in the sin or exemplified the opposite positive character trait are given.

I paged over to the Arguing/Complaining section and skimmed the Bible verses listed, stopping at Philippians 2:14-15: Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe. Using the metaphor in these verses, I remembered a basket of small flashlights I used for props in Bible school and grabbed two of them for my own object lesson. I read the verses to my daughter and explained that, as Christians, we are different from those around us. By following what the Bible tells us to do, we can shine. I asked her to turn one of the flashlights on. Because it had dead batteries, it wouldn't shine. I explained that, like that flashlight, we don't shine God's love when we are too busy arguing or complaining. I then gave her a working flashlight, which she turned on. When we choose to keep ourselves from arguing or complaining, we shine God's love through the darkness of others who do choose to argue or complain.

When complaints reared their heads yesterday afternoon, I simply asked, "Do you want to shine?" That question was all that was needed to stop those complaints in their tracks.

I learned yesterday that going to the Word is one of the most effective forms of discipline. After all, the word has at its root the word disciple, with all the connotations of learning. The Bible is useful for instruction in righteousness--for children--and for their mamas!

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

None of Your Business!

"If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37b)
Feeling a bit parched? Searching to quench that thirst with an iced tea or Diet Coke? Dive into the Word for real refreshment!I try to be diligent in my Bible reading and am often rewarded by God's speaking to my heart through particular scriptures. I pause and sometimes even write them down. The reflection usually ends there, however. This year, I would like to pursue the verses that God lays on my heart by pondering how He wants me to apply these verses in my life.
Here is what spoke to me this week:
Last Sunday evening I attended a church-wide Bible study led by our pastor on the book of Acts. It was scholarly, thorough, and intense, but the most impressive thing about the session was the application that we could make to our own lives. Two powerful points from just a few verses have lingered in my mind this week.
So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Acts 1:6-8
When the disciples asked when the Old Testament prophecy of the Messiah's restoring Israel to its privileged place would be fulfilled, He basically replied, "It's none of your business." With all of the speculation about the end times lately, this statement is a surprising punch. There are signs all around us that the end could be near; however, almost every generation since the time of Christ has anticipated that it would witness the Second Coming.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we shouldn't eagerly anticipate Christ's return. In fact, it should give us hope (Titus 2:12-14). We simply shouldn't let our anticipation overshadow our mission.
A few verses down, the disciples are wistfully staring into the heavens after Christ's ascension, wishing, I'm sure, that He were back on earth to lead them. Two angels appeared and redirected their attention to where it should be--the mission field (Acts 1:9-11).
Christ promised his disciples (and us) power through the Holy Spirit, and this power was to fulfill our mission of witnessing to others. Jesus then goes on to describe three concentric circles of our mission field. Let's start with the largest one first. We know that there are some people who have a heart for missions abroad. These people are attending to "the ends of the earth" mission field. Although we may not be in a situation where we would go abroad, we can still support this mission by supporting missionaries sponsored by our church and participating in activities like Operation Christmas Child.
The disciples' "Judea and Samaria" would be a smaller concentric circle, more locally concentrated, but not immediate. These efforts should be made to share the good news, in word and deed, to those closer to home but not in our everyday sphere of influence. Finally, the smallest concentric circle of the mission field is those with whom we come into contact every day: strangers we come across during our errands, acquaintances, friends, neighbors, and family.
I pass on to you the challenge that was given to me last Sunday: Are you going to stand looking at the sky wondering when Christ will return, or will you find a way to fulfill the mission that He left us?
So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Giveaway Winner

The winner of From Clutter to Clarity Kathryn from Pure Wells. Congratulations, Kathryn!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cast Your Burdens

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7

I used to be a big worrier. The smallest things would keep me up at night. I would spend time wondering about the title of a grant that I was writing for school, or if I had chosen the right novel for my AP Literature students to read. I would worry if I sounded silly or dumb in a conversation I just had with an acquaintance. Although I had read the words of Matthew 6:27, I had yet to put them into practice.

When I was pregnant with Emily Anne, I worried even more. I worried about how she was being formed in my womb. I worried about how I would be a good parent. I worried about what kind of person she would grow up to be. I worried about worrying too much.

Then a friend of mine gave me this book. I began praying one prayer a night and gradually found my worries decreasing. Now, I wouldn't classify myself as a worrier; when I do start to worry, I become a pray-er.

Lately, though, I've been coming across 1 Peter 5:7. It was the key scripture verse for the Weight Management breakout session at our Spa for the Soul Women's Retreat. It is on a CD put together by our Youth Pastor, and we play it constantly in the car. It came up in a conversation with a friend the other day. Okay, what is God trying to tell me?

Am I worrying about how much the children are learning in homeschool? Am I choosing to teach the right things? Am I choosing to share the right things on this blog? Am I spending too much tiime with it? Am I going to be able to keep up with the housekeeping and homeschooling, too? Am I worrying too much? . . . Okay, let me take Stormie's advice again.

Dear Lord, Thank you that we can cast our cares on You. Thank you for the assurance that You care for us. Lord, I place our homeschooling in Your hands; we trust You to guide us in what You would have us to learn. Give us wisdom, Lord, not the earthly wisdom that surrounds us, but the wisdom that comes only from You. Lord, guide me in my sharing my stories with others, so that they might be used to glorify You. Lord, help me to manage my time so that You are my first priority. Let the other things that need to be done fall into place after I have first spent time with You. Thank you for relieving my burdens and taking up your yoke, which is not heavy. Amen.

So, what Scripture has spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Also, don't forget about the giveaway for Nancy Twigg's book From Clutter to Clarity! Clutter is a burden, too!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Simple Little Giveaway

The other week, I reviewed Nancy Twigg's great book From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out. In addition to this book, Nancy has also written Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions; and A Month of Mites: 31 Devotionals on Simple Christian Living. Nancy has graciously agreed to answer my questions, and the interview is below.

Nancy, you seem to have a mission to live simply. Could you please share with us how you were led to such a mission?
I have always been interested in simplicity, but that inclination to live simply became a necessity to live simply in 1997 when my husband, Michael and I both left our jobs to begin working at home. The initial plan was not for both of us to quit; I planned to stay at my job. But when my already stressful job became intolerable, we agreed it was best for me to quit, too. As we learned more and more about being good stewards of our resources and keeping our lives focused on what is most important, I felt called to begin sharing what we had learned. That "sharing" took the form of writing and speaking.

In addition to being a published author, you have created two Internet ministries: Creative Frugality and Counting the Cost. Please tell us about these websites.
The Creative Frugality is really just a hobby site. In fact, it is actually being phased out and will soon be replaced with my new work-in-process, . is my main Internet presence. Counting the Cost began as a printed newsletter. I started it in 1998 when I began feeling called to help others live simply too. After almost 3 years as a print publication, Counting the Cost became a free, twice-a -month email newsletter in August, 2000. The website is simply an extension of the newsletter. All the great reader tips as well as the back issues of the newsletter get posted online.

Did From Clutter to Clarity grow out of these two ministries?
Yes and no. My first book, Celebrate Simply, definitely got its start in my newsletter. I had addressed the ideas of simplifying holidays, saving money on gifts, etc., many times in Counting the Cost. My second book—a self-published book called, A Month of Mites: 31 Devotions on Giving God Your Very Best—also started there because it is a collection of all the "Scripture Thought" columns that ran each month in the printed newsletter. When I wrote From Clutter to Clarity, I definitely drew on all of my experiences with living simply but I believe that book would have been written with or without Counting the Cost.

How did you first begin speaking and writing? Which came first for you?
I have been speaking all my life—I helped teach children’s Sunday School classes and VBS when I was still a child myself! Also my church had a wonderful program called "Lads to Leaders/Lasses to Leaders" that helped young people learn at an early age to speak in front of groups of people. However, my "professional" speaking began after I wrote my first book. The first edition of Celebrate Simply was self-published (later republished by Kregel Publications). To promote the book, my family traveled all over the eastern part of the country. I spoke for free anywhere they’d let me sell books. After a year or so of that, I began to actually get invitations to speak for a fee or honorarium.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I would say, "Just do it." In other words, find a way—any way—to use your writing to bless others. When I first began Counting the Cost, I wasn’t thinking about writing a book. But now, ten years later I have written three books and had freelance articles published in national magazines. At the time I was just finding a way to use my gifts for God’s glory. With the prominence of blogging and self-publishing these days, it is easier than ever before to share your message for the world. Keep writing. Keep blessing others with your gift. Eventually God will open doors for you to reach bigger and bigger audiences.

You homeschool your daughter. What do you find most challenging about homeschooling? What do you find the most rewarding?
We are "part-time" homeschoolers. Lydia is part of a homeschool co-op that meets three mornings a week. I teach her at home (following the teacher’s lesson plan) the other two mornings each week. The biggest challenge for us is that our personalities (mine and Lydia’s) are so different. I am a focus, get-it-done kind of person. I want to check each thing off my To Do list so I can get on with the rest of my day. Lydia tends to be more spontaneous and less focused. Unlike me, she is not driven by a need to accomplish! We clash sometimes when I feel she is moving at a snail’s pace and she feels I am steamrolling over her as I try to plow ahead. The most rewarding times come when we really connect and enjoy the process of learning together. On those occasions when I am able to plug in to her preferred learning style with a particular activity or lesson, the difference is amazing. I have no trouble keeping her on task because she has so much fun.

Nancy has graciously agreed to provide a copy of From Clutter to Clarity (her last copy from the publisher, no less!) for one of you!
Just leave a comment, either telling us about a way that you have found to live simply, or telling us why you feel the need to live more simply. I will draw a winner on Saturday, September 13.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rejuvenation at A Spa for the Soul

I just wanted to report that the Women's Retreat was a great success! We had 74 women at the retreat, of diverse ages (from teenagers through nonagenarians). How often do any of us take the time to sit and meditate? We may take time out to pamper our physical bodies, but we just don't do that for our spirits. We remedied that this weekend!

At registration, we donated toiletry or spa-related items for our local domestic abuse shelter.

Suzy Speas created opportunities for reflection and meditation and prayer within the general sessions held in the sanctuary, where the lights were dimmed and a fountain trickled serenely in the background. (I am sorry that I did not get good pictures of the general sessions; it was too dark).Her presentations were based on the idea of a cup, one that holds our lives with both their positives and negatives. We must make the decision to hold our cups, in a sense accepting ourselves. Then we must be willing to lift our glasses and share our lives with others. Finally, we must be willing to drink our cups, as Jesus drank the cup the Father gave him.

Lest you think these sessions were too heavy, just imagine a group of women--from teenagers to young single women to mothers with young children to empty-nesters whose children have just flown to college to grandmothers, and even a great-grandmother or two--dancing in the aisles to a variety of music! There was also a lot of fun in the drawing of pampering doorprizes!

Our times of fellowship were truly special. On Friday night we enjoyed sub sandwiches and discussed light-hearted, spa-related topics at our tables, such as what we do when a bad hair day strikes. Bernice Blackwell, a 96-year-old charter member of St. Luke, confessed that her favorite nail polish shade would be the coral OPI shade "Where's the Party?"!

This is Miss Bernice with her daughter, Molly Williams.

Saturday's lunch over boxed meals from Saffron Catering (huge portions of delicious pasta, grilled chicken salad, fresh fruit and the best focaccia bread) provided the opportunity to bond with other women. A Walk 'n' Talk then allowed us to walk off that wonderful lunch and address some deeper topics; it was amazing to see how God had opened our hearts to one another!

Participants had preselected "preferred spa appointments" (breakout sessions) on topics such as Facials (how our attitudes shape our expressions)by Merri Scarborough, Face (Faith) Lifts by Trish Lunn, Weight Management (casting our cares on the Lord)by Joanne Merck, Manicures (making our hands beautiful for the Lord's work) by Alison Evans, and Pedicures (what makes for beautiful feet--Romans 10:15) by yours truly (You can see a basket of the goodies for our feet I put together below).

I heartily recommend a day or two at the spiritual spa! And now, back to the reality of everyday life; we need to figure out to take our spa with us!
Be sure to check back tomorrow for an interview with Nancy Twigg and a giveaway!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Here is my menu for the week:


Green Beans




Fellowship Supper at church


Glazed Carrots


Extra-Easy Lasagna


Extra-Easy Lasagne

1 lb. lean ground beef

4 cups pasta sauce (We like Classico 4-Cheese)

6 uncooked lasagna noodles

1 (15-oz.) container ricotta cheese

2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup hot water

Cook beef in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring until it crumbles and is no longer pink. Stir in pasta sauce.

Spread 1/3 of meat sauce in a lightly greased 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking dish; layer with 3 noodles and half each of ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese. Repeat procedure; spread remaining 1/3 of meat sauce over mozzarella cheese. Slowly pour 1/4 cup hot water around inside edge of dish. Tightly cover baking dish with 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes; uncover and bake 10 more minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Spa for the Soul

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Psalm 51:10
Who wouldn't love a day at the spa? It had been a long time for me, but a group of childhood friends met at a new spa here in our hometown to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of one of our friends. We had our choice of spa treatments, and I chose a manicure. Experiencing a hand massage, having my nails shaped and laquered--the pampering did me good!
Just as sometimes we need a physical spa treatment, we also occasionally need a spiritual spa treatment. When we indulge in pampering our bodies, the result is relaxation, renewal, and refreshment. Doesn’t our soul deserve the same treatment?

This is what our Women's Retreat this weekend at my church is all about. Our keystone verse for A Spa for the Soul is Psalm 51:10. This event will exfoliate the rough patches in our souls, moisturize us with Living Water, and create beautiful hands and feet to do the work of Christ in our world.
I'll be sharing more on the retreat next week. In the meantime, share the Scripture that has spoken to you this week. Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Falling into Autumn

Although I seem to be jumping the gun here in South Carolina, I've been inspired by Melissa over at the Inspired Room. She is hosting a Fall Nesting celebration where we can post pictures of our autumn decorating. This has been such fun, and, now that I actually have furniture back in my house, I've had such fun cozying it up.

I began falling into autumn decorating when Kimba posted this on her blog A Soft Place to Land. You'll see in the pictures below that it was my main inspiration for fall decor. Here is the centerpiece I made for the dining-room table. I pulled out my Southern Living at Home plate and found some fall ribbon on an old basket and threaded it through the spaces. I turned over a wine glass and two of my grandmother's cordial glasses, putting them over silk autumn leaves and faux berries. I added a pumpkin but felt like it needed a little more and pulled out some doo-dads from a bowl of potpourri I had in the living room. I placed the centerpiece on a fall kitchen towel and folded it square (No, I didn't bother to iron it! In the Nester's words, it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!). Here's the arrangement I made on the sideboard in the dining room, using the same idea but mixing in a crystal bowl and some crystal candlesticks.
I arranged the sideboard late last night (when the kids were asleep), and when I came downstairs this morning, it struck me as a little cluttered. We'll see if I leave it like this or not (Who am I kidding? When will I find the time to do this again?). Although I know that it is a deocorating no-no, I much prefer decorating with symmetry, so this arrangment is different for me. The other day at Wal-Mart I saw two really pretty hurricanes on top of bronze bases; I would have loved to have filled them up with small pumpkins, gourds, and berries. I figured, though, I should just work with what I have this year; maybe I can find them on clearance at the end of the season!

Moving from the dining room on into the kitchen, here is my centerpiece for the breakfast-room table. We got this pewter bowl and tray as wedding gifts. I thought the fruit motif played into the harvest theme. I plunked a wine glass over a silk leaf, placed three small pumpkins around the glass and added a sprig of faux berries in between each pumpkin.

Here's how I decorated the china cabinet housing my Liberty Blue china (sorry for the picture quality. How do I avoid glare from windows?). Please ignore that horrible wallpaper; I am really hoping to paint soon!

I just stuck little pumpkins, gourds, and leaves in the nooks and crannies and added small votive candles in makeshift candleholders (the one on the left is actually for tapers, and the one on the right is really a vase).

And finally, here is the mantelpiece in the den. I replaced a Christmas cactus and mother-in-law's tongue with these flowerpots filled with pumpkins.

I haven't done much outside yet; I think my neighbors would be a little perplexed if I started with autumn wreaths when it's still 90 degrees outside! I am already overhauling a wreath for the back door, though. I'll be back with more autumn decor later in the season. By the way, I am looking for two wrought iron stands that would hold ferns (or pumpkins) for my front porch. Does anyone know where I could find them (for a reasonable price)?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Spa for the Soul

This weekend my church is hosting its first Women's Retreat in many years. The title of the retreat is "A Spa for the Soul," and the keynote addresses and breakout sessions carry out this theme.

In fact, I have expanded upon this post and will be leading a breakout session entitled "A Spiritual Pedicure." I haven't spoken to a large group (of adults) since I quit teaching over five years ago.

I would covet your prayers for this weekend, specifically, that I am able to conquer any nervousness or anxiety that I may feel and that I humble myself to be a conduit for the Holy Spirit. I would also ask you to pray that the weekend is a time of renewal and rejuvenation for the women of St. Luke, that hearts would be touched, and that the event is the impetus for closer friendships among the women and closer relationships with God.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I will take pictures and post on the retreat next week. Also, stay tuned for an interview with Nancy Twigg and a giveaway!

Friday, August 29, 2008

From Clutter to Clarity

Clutter--got it? Want to get rid of it? This problem seems to be one that many people deal with. In fact, I wrote a post today on my homeschooling blog that is part of the Heart of the Matter's meme about how to control clutter.

Nancy Twigg has written a book that cuts right to the heart of clutter. In fact, she sees clutter as an outward symptom of a heart issue. From Clutter to Clarity: Simplifying Life from the Inside Out creates "a new definition of clutter: anything that complicates your life and prevents you from living in peace as you live out your purpose."

Nancy's book is innovative in that it deals with clutter, not just as the physical things that crowd our spaces, but as the attitudes and mindsets that prompt us to collect these items. In addition, Nancy states that clutter for Christians is even more problematic than for other people. She says, "We simply cannot make room for him [Jesus] when so many other things are in the way." Wow, that's convicting, isn't it?

The structure of the book makes it easy to read. Its 17 chapters are divided into three distinct sections: "From Cluttered Thoughts and Attitudes to Inner Clarity," "From Cluttered Lifestyle to Outer Clarity," and "From Cluttered Money Matters to Financial Clarity." Although Nancy includes many Bible verses throughout the book, the touchstone verse for the book is Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

When I had read this verse before, I concentrated simply on the race metaphor. I had not thought of this verse through the lens of simplification, but this view is so liberating!
Nancy's personal stories and those from others which she includes at the end of each chapter are inspiring. I lack the innate gift of clutter control--physical, emotional, or spiritual--and it was encouraging to read accounts of others' success in purging their clutter.
Although all the chapters contained wisdom, the one that made the biggest impact on me was "Letting Go of the Untrustables." Seeing misplaced trust as clutter that gets in the way of our One True Source of trust has been transforming for me.
Beginning a new school year seems to bring out the need to organize. Why not read Nancy's book and get to the root of our clutter?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

He Shall Bring It To Pass

Joel and I attended a wedding this past weekend in Blowing Rock. The weather was much cooler there, the views were beautiful, the town was charming, and the stone church was straight out of Mitford. The bride was a childhood friend, and the experience of seeing her and other old friends prompted much nostalgia. The bride looked elegant, attired in a satin and lace sheath originally worn by her mother on her wedding day. The sit-down dinner at the country club was delicious, and dancing to the band was great fun. Among all of these delights of the weekend, though, there was something more.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

Dwell in the land,

and feed on His faithfulness.

Delight yourself also in the LORD,

And He shall give you

the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the LORD,

Trust also in Him,

And He shall bring it to pass.

--Psalm 37:3-5, NKJV

Verse 4 was printed on the wedding invitations, and these verses in their entirety were printed in the Order of Service and figured prominently in the homily. It was obvious that Mimi & Steve's wedding and marriage would be a testimony of their faith in God.
You see, the bride is 37 and the groom is 43, and this was the first marriage for each. After watching most of their friends marry and have children over many years, they never wavered in their belief that God would eventually lead them to the one that He had planned for them. They never settled for less than God's best out of impatience, they never tried to force their own agendas, they never gave up on their desire for a Godly spouse.
Over the years they did continue to ask their friends to pray for a Christian partner for them. They did continue to commit their single lives to God, and to delight in the ways that God showed them that He cared about them. They recognized God's hand in their lives and sustained themselves with His faithfulness.
Thank you, Mimi and Steve, for allowing us to celebrate with you on the day that God have you the desire of your hearts!
As I have meditated on these verses this week, the words "feed on His faithfulness" have lodged themselves in my mind. My sister's ministry is sponsoring a 40-day fast, and I'm taking this opportunity to commit my way to God. Although I'm not sure what form this fast will take, I look forward to the adventure of deepening my relationship with Him.
So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What We're Using

The Heart of the Matter is hosting an online meme today about what you're using this year for homeschooling. Here's our list:
  • Bible: A Child Story's Bible, by Catherine Vos--We're reading a small section each day and then doing a related craft. We're also doing memory verses.
  • Math: Saxon 1--Emily Anne is doing first grade math because her 4K preschool class last year used the 5K Saxon math curriculum. The first two weeks have been review, and the daily meeting time is a little too repetitive for us. However, we are getting into adding and subtracting, and EA loves acting out the "some, more, less" stories.
  • Handwriting: A Reason for Handwriting, 1--The first section of this workbook includes many review lessons. EA needs them, but they are quite long. This subject is our struggle, as EA requires continual prompting to stay on task with these long review lessons. Once the actual lessons begin with the shorter practice and the incentive of mailing out a finished Bible verse, I'm hoping the struggle will end.
  • Phonics: An Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, by Jessie Wise--I love, love this book! We had started last spring to supplement the phonics she was receiving in 4K but used it only sproradically. Now that we've been using it every day for about three weeks now, Emily Anne's reading has really taken off. We just started the section on consonant blends yesterday.
  • Science: From Mudpies to Magnets--We actually haven't used a lesson from this book yet. I think I'll choose one to do per week.

Check out what other home educators are using at The Heart of the Matter.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Memory Verse

Since we've begun homeschool, we have been memorizing a verse a week. So far we've memorized Genesis 1:1, John 3:16, and this verse:

It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him. Deuteronomy 13:4

I have been thinking about this verse so much, partly because it is not as familiar to me as some of the others, and also because it happened to be the Old Testament scripture read last Sunday in church. I leaned over to Emily Anne and whispered, "That's our memory verse!", and she had recognized it.

As I've been meditating on this verse, I've broken it down into parts and have decided that these are excellent spiritual goals for my children (and for me!)

  • Follow God. So often it is too easy to run ahead of God. When we do so, we miss out on God's best for us. Instead, we should follow God as Abraham did, not always sure where we're going but confident in our Leader.
  • Revere God. Being reverent is something that seems to be lacking in our society today. So much is casual and geared to our comfort. We should never forget how awesome God really is. Holding God in awe checks our own too prevalent pride.
  • Keep God's commands. To keep God's commands, we must know them. God has given us the Holy Spirit to impress His Word on our hearts, but we must make the first effort to open the Bible and read with the intent of applying it to our lives.
  • Obey God. Once we know God's laws, we should intentionally fulfill them. We should obey, not just the ones that are easy for us or the ones that are socially acceptable, but all of them, even those hardest for us. Of course, with our sinful natures, we will miss the mark, but with true repentance comes forgiveness.
  • Serve God. God has made each of us with special gifts, personalities, experiences, and specific purposes. We should be aware of those to better work for His glory.
  • Hold fast to God. We should cling to God. We should hold fast to Him during crises, but we should also not loosen our grasp when the going is good, lest we open ourselves up to our own sinful natures and attacks by the enemy.

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

She Makes Coverings for Her Bed (and Walls and Windows . . .)

I have had a fun couple of days looking at the blogs on Nester's Mister Linky for mistreatment posts. I don't think I'm even halfway through with the list! If you don't know Nester or her definition of mistreatments, check out her blog.

My earlier post on homemaking got me thinking: is putting so much thought into decorating your home frivolous? Isn't there something else that I should be doing (like cleaning?!), as busy at home as I am?
Is decorating something that the Proverbs 31 woman would do? Apparently, so. This section states that "a wife of noble character" makes coverings for her bed (and we can assume, her windows, and walls). Making a home comfortable is something that God wants us to do. Granted, a home consists much more of the atmosphere created by loving words and actions rather than that created by paint and fabric, but the physical atmosphere is important, too.
This weekend we finally moved over the rest of our furniture to our new house. Although our old house is not yet sold, we have had an offer to lease it for eighteen months. This arrangement should help to relieve some of the stress of attempting to keep up two homes and paying for them! We should sign the contract this weekend, and we would covet your prayers that all goes smoothly.
It has been an interesting nine months or so living without most of our furniture. I am so happy to have it back and to see the potential of this home and be able to truly make it our own.
You can see the before pictures of the empty living room and dining room here. Here are pics of the living room now, in progress.

Here is the far wall of the living room looking in from the foyer. Those needlepoint pillows, which were a gift from my sister, are two of my favorite things. I love blue-and-white china, and they are just perfect! The two pictures are actually French tapestries. The one on the left I brought back for my grandmother, and the one on the left is mine. They were framed and matted separately, so they're not exactly the same size, but I figure that one day I'll eventually get mine reframed to match my grandmother's. The lamp is one that my parents picked up at an estate sale; I need to get a longer lamp shade for it. It rests on a drum table that we were able to salvage when my paternal grandmother's house burned. As I write this post, it occurs to me that much of my furniture is "please and thank you."

Moving counter-clockwise in this room, is this wall. On either side of the sofa is a pocket door into the den. That lamp on the small chest is not staying; I don't think it even still works. It was just something to see how the chest works with accessories. That chest is just a little high for the sofa, but I think I'll still use it there. I haven't accessorized the coffee table yet but will probably add some books on tea and a tea cup and saucer. The portrait above the sofa is my wedding portrait; the small pictures on either side were large postcards of Florence, Italy that I had framed. They're a little too small to flank the portrait; I just added them on a whim. I'll probably eventually replace them with some blue-and-white china.

Continuing to move counter-clockwise in the room, you see this wall leading into the foyer. Above the painting is my favorite print, called "Charleston Rooftops." It's not the ubiquitous Charleston prints you see of Rainbow Row, but is still evocative of that city's charm and history. I need to find a pretty needlepoint pillow for the dark blue wingback chair and a print for that corner. Excuse the teal green carpet by the front door; that is the same carpet that we have upstairs and can't wait to replace (although it will probably be a while!).
Here is the last wall, the one that looks out into the front yard. I nestled my secretary between these two windows, but other than that, this wall is pretty bare. I think the windows are ripe for a mistreatment; some fabric would definitely cozy up this wall. Does anyone have any fabric suggestions? That tassel on the secretary is a luscious mix of rose, yellow, blue, peach, and light teal, and I would love to find some silk buffalo check fabric in those colors. Do you think buffalo checks would clash with the plaid sofa?

Here's another solicitation for advice: What color would you paint the walls in this room? They definitely need cozying up with the beige paint and beige carpeting!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Homeschool Co-op: The Agony & the Ecstasy

Today was our first day of our local homeschool group's co-op. Emily Anne was enrolled in Opening Assembly (public speaking in a show & tell type format), Chemistry, Election Fun, Historic Artists, and Creative Math. Will was enrolled in a general Preschool class, Bible Time, Zoo Animals, and Rest and Relaxation.

As a part of the co-op, parents who are not teaching a class are teacher helpers. I volunteered to help in Will's preschool class and the R & R class. I thought that Emily Anne would be fine without Mama nearby and that Will might need some help adjusting to a schedule, especially at the beginning and end of the day. It turns out, I was right!

Throughout the day, whenever I had a chance to see or speak with Emily Anne, she was smiling and telling me how much she enjoyed co-op. She made fast friends with another girl just her age. Several teachers and parents told me in passing how smart and polite she was and that she had told them all about finding fossils in Tennessee. Who doesn't love to be complimented on their children? I was positively beaming!

Of course, at the time that I received these accolades, I was chasing after my other child. Will had a hard day. He is 2 1/2, which is too old for the nursery but not quite ready for the 3-year-old classes in which he is enrolled.

To top it off, Will was up at 6:15 this morning. We had to be at co-op at 8:00 to register and get EA to opening assembly. By the time his first class started, he was already asking about snack. He was great in this first class; he listened to the story, identified shapes and made a collage with them, and participated in the music. After this class, there was a snack, with time to play on the gym floor with basketballs. Will did not want to leave the basketballs to go to Bible Time. I finally convinced him to go to class (with me, even though I was not a volunteer), and he was okay in this class--not perfectly behaved, but not unmanageable either.

It was a great ordeal to get him to get to his next class; the basketballs were still beckoning. He enjoyed the zoo animal puppets that he colored when we finally got there, though. Next on the schedule was lunch, with the Rest & Relaxation class after that. We had brought his sleeping bag, with which he was delighted. My hopes were high, but, unfortunately, I was too soon hopeful. By the time the class actually started, he was tired of his sleeping bag and over-tired and over-stimulated. With my best efforts, I got him settled down, and I looked up to see Joel peeking in the window. Will and I went out to see him, and I learned that he had had to put our older cat to sleep (Booker had a fast-growing facial tumor). Joel wanted to confirm what time we would be home so that he could arrange to be there to explain to the children. After seeing Daddy, Will's efforts at communal naptime were exhausted (pun intended) After struggling with him, I finally went out to the car, brought in a few books and read to him. In ten minutes he was asleep in a noisy gym.

I learned a good lesson today. One of the reasons homeschooling seemed so appealing was the flexibility of time and learning experiences it offered. Co-op is a great fit for Emily Anne at her age. The number of classes are too overwhelming for Will right now. Rather than try to fit to the schedule, I should adapt it to fit to our needs.

Check in later in the week for a post about moving my longed-for furniture and a book review.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Golden Anniversary: The Key to Lasting 50 Years

"[L]ove covers all transgressions."
Proverbs 10:12

Last week my husband's parents commemorated their golden anniversary in the presence of their four children, three in-laws, and six grandchildren by reaffirming the vows they made fifty years ago. It was not a pretentious event; the ceremony took place on the steps of a lovely country church that was scouted out the day before. There were no flowers and no music. This celebration was pared down to its essentials, and was all the more meaningful for it.

My husband's brother-in-law performed the ceremony, and in his short sermon, he distilled great marital advice down to its core. He made the point that Nancy and Eugene had lived out Proverbs 10:12: "Love covers all transgressions." Through five decades of want and abundance, tragedy and triumph, they were able to overlook the other's transgressions because of their love. Putting aside their own pride and selfishness, they let their love for one another blanket any shortcomings.

The message struck my heart. Yes, I want to be able to celebrate fifty years of marriage one day with my own husband. Do I, however, allow my love to cover my husband's transgressions? Am I able to put my wants and hurts on the backburner for the good of our marriage? Am I easily offended, quick to mistake an innocent remark for a caustic one, or do I allow love to cloak my husband's words?

No spouse is perfect, especially me. I want Joel's love for me to put me in the best possible light. In turn, I want to view him through rose-colored glasses, putting a positive spin on every word and action. Now, I don't want to ignore any possible trouble spots, as we are to "rebuke and exhort," but we are to do so with "great patience" (2 Timothy 4:2). I just want Joel and I to love one another so that we can overlook the imperfections and encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Nancy & Eugene, congratulations on your Golden Anniversary! Thank you for the example of Christian marriage that you have given your family.

So, what verses have spoken to you this week? Post those verses on your own blog, along with how you see that God wants you to apply them in your life. Then, provide your link below so that we can drink from one another's wells of scripture.