Sunday, December 24, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Ornaments #4: Gifted

WEEK 1:  My Favorite Vintage Ornaments
WEEK 2:  My Favorite Homemade Ornaments
WEEK 3:  My Favorite Store-bought Ornaments

WEEK 4:  This is the final week for sharing my favorite Christmas ornaments. Today is about some of the ornaments that were given to us as gifts (not including the ones that were already mentioned in previous posts.)

Friends of ours, The Snowdens, gave this to us - I'm thinking it was 2 or 3 years ago. It is a favorite because it reminds me of our two cats, Aggie and Dutchess, who were with us for 18 and 19 years. This ornament, and another one that says "PURRR" are memorials to these special cats.

A friend of mine, Debra, gave this to me the Christmas before we both went our separate ways to college. It is engraved with the year I graduated from High School.

My sister, Judith, crocheted these ornaments for us when David and I were newly married. The bigger one is crocheted around a small red ornament; and for the smaller one, she used a  plastic cap from a water bottle. I love them because they were crafted for us with Judy's time, and with her love. I put them on our tree every year.
I don't remember who gave this one to us, but it says, "Our First Christmas Together - 1992" It was a wedding gift.

Luke 2:14 - “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

I hope you are enjoying your holiday season, remembering the good times you have had in the past, and making new memories this year with family and friends. Above all, be at peace, because the Prince of Peace was born to bring you hope.

Merry Christmas! 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Ornaments #3: Store-bought

WEEK 1: I shared My Favorite Vintage Ornaments
WEEK 2:  I shared My Favorite Homemade Ornaments
WEEK 3 brings us to some of My Favorite Store-bought Ornaments

There are 4 store-bought ornaments in this photo. The gold ball on the left and the red ball on the right I bought during a Christmas clearance sale one year to help fill in the gaps on our new artificial tree. Those are nice, but not really favorites. However, the snowman ball and the angel ornament are special because they were recently handed down to us from David's mom and dad. The clear snowflake in the top photo is also from them.

In remembrance of my dad, and our first Christmas without him, I bought this ornament new this year from Personalization Mall. It says "Forever in Our Hearts" and is  a new favorite of mine. 

Luke 2:10 - And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.(ESV)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Ornaments #2: Homemade

As I mentioned last week, every ornament on our Christmas tree has a story to tell. Some were on our tree when I was growing up, some are homemade, some are store-bought, and some were given to us as gifts.

Today,  I share about some favorite homemade ornaments on our tree...

This is only two, out of I think 8, ornaments that I painted for mine and David's first Christmas tree. They are plastic, but are meant to look like stained glass. We didn't have any ornaments of our own yet, so I decided to get an ornament kit and paint these.

The kids and I made these salt-dough ornaments in 2005. JJ was almost 3 years old. EL was 7. It was a fun project to cut, bake, and paint these ornaments. We gave some away as gifts that year, and kept some for ourselves.

Some dear friends of ours made us several ornaments made of pinecones. They make our artificial tree look a little more real.

This photo shows two more homemade ornaments. The one with JJ in the frame was made at the local nursing home several years ago at a Christmas event for children. The round one above it was made in 2004. It has JJ's thumbprint on it, and I added a stick person's body to it, then wrote the words "Thumb body loves you!" I have one that EL made also (not shown), but I made her thumbprint into a flower shape and wrote, "Thumb flowers never fade." We gave these away as gifts that year, and didn't keep any for ourselves, but these specific ones found their way onto our tree after Grandma Mac passed away in 2013. So, they are special because they have the kids thumbprints on them, and are also special because they belonged to Grandma.

Luke 6:38 - Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (ESV)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

My Favorite Christmas Ornaments #1: Vintage

Our family has made the personal choice to observe Jesus Christ's birth every year by celebrating Christmas with family and friends. One of the traditions we have during this time of year is to decorate a Christmas tree. It is a special time of family togetherness, and a great time to reminisce.

Every year when we decorate our tree, it is like taking a walk down "memory lane." Every ornament has a story to tell. Some were on our family tree when I was growing up, some are homemade, some are store-bought, and some were given to us as gifts.

During the month of December, I will share some of my favorite ornaments with you and tell you why they are special to me.

Today,  I share about some of the vintage ornaments on our tree...

The original Shiny Brite* company was a producer of popular American-made glass Christmas tree ornaments. According to my mom, this box of assorted ornaments was most likely purchased at Woolworth's in Springfield, IL (a popular "five and dime" store) in the late 1960's. The ornaments are special to me because they were used on our family tree when I was growing up.  I especially liked the teardrop shapes, like the one in the photo at top, and in the photo below.

*You can read about the history of the Shiny Brite company on the Manchester Township website, under HISTORY.

The blue one in this photo is my favorite out of the Shiny Brite collection. No real reason - I just like the color. And, along with this ornament, you can also see a painted bear made of wood. I remember helping my mom paint this bear when I was very little, maybe 4 or 5 years old. My brother and sister painted some of these wooden shapes as well.

This one was a personalized metal angel ornament given to me by our dear friends, The Moores. It has been on our family tree since I was about 10 years old. It's always a favorite to hang up and remember the friendship we had (and continue to have) with the family who gave it to me.

Here is a full look at our Christmas tree this year. Come back next Sunday to get an up-close look of some of the homemade ornaments that are special to me.

Our 2017 Christmas Tree

John 1:14 - And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Family Honor Plate & Table Thyme Discussion Cards

I have two fun Christmas gift ideas to share with you today that can be used in your own family, or given to another family you wish to bless.

This plate starts out as a do-it-yourself (DIY) ceramics-painting project you design and bake at home. You can paint it together as a family or, if you want some creativity time, you can take an evening and paint it yourself. That's what I did. My kids weren't really interested in painting it, so I took the time to do it myself. I chose to paint the words, "You Are A Blessing" on it, because that is the basic idea of the plate - to help children understand how and why they have been a blessing to someone (read more info about that below), but we also plan on using it throughout the year on each of our birthdays. Here's how my plate turned out:

After the plate is painted and baked, it is meant to be used as a fun parenting tool that encourages children (and everyone in the family) to learn more about and focus on the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.

Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, 
peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 
gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


Step #1 - PARENTS SHOULD BE THE EXAMPLE: Our children are watching us and learning from us. This is how they learn what character (Christ's Character) is, what it looks like, what it feels like. The virtues are listed in the center of the plate for parents to use as their moral compass. 

Step #2 - BE ON THE LOOKOUT: Look for the good choices and attitudes your kids/spouse are making and showing throughout the day. Track it back to the virtues listed on the plate.

Step #3 - CELEBRATE THEIR CHARACTER: When you catch someone making good choices and showing good character, present their meal on the FAMILY HONOR PLATE that evening at mealtime. Talk about the good choices they made and the virtues and character that it showed (Be specific about how they were a blessing). Talk about how their actions were POWERFUL and BEAUTIFUL because of the impact they made in someone's life.

I believe this would make a unique Christmas gift for a family you love, including your own. It includes everything you need to paint the plate, and display it in the home. Watch this video for more information, or go ahead and PURCHASE HERE:  FAMILY HONOR PLATE 


My family and I have been using these during our evening meal times together. We try to do at least 2 questions per meal, and have enjoyed learning more about the others in our family. 

Here's an example of a question my 14 year old son answered:

  • QUESTION: If you could be any animal, what would you be?
  • ANSWER: A dog - a golden retriever
  • QUESTION:  Why?
  • ANSWER: They are soft and friendly, and I've just always wanted to have one of my own. I like cats, and I'm glad to have Sofie [his cat], but I think it would be cool to have a dog, too.

Move around the table until everyone has had a chance to answer. It is fun, and interesting, and is a good way to get to know each other better. It provides a way to share memories, and is a way to make memories also.

NOTE: As a member of FlyBy Promotions, I received a sample of these products in exchange for this review and post.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Revisiting Inexpensive Ways to Encourage at Christmas

Two years ago, I did a series of "Encouragement Challenges" on this blog. During the Christmas season that year, I published 3 different posts that included inexpensive (or even free) ideas for encouraging others during this time of year. Today, I want to share these gift ideas with you again as we head into another Christmas season. Read the articles by clicking on each of the images below.
Write tributes to your loved ones for them to read while they are still with you.
Share positive thoughts. No money needed - just a little of your time.
Share Christmas goodies with family and friends.

I hope you enjoy this Christmas season 
by spending much of your time thinking 
about and encouraging others.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Gospel Tools from "Let the Little Children Come"

Children are not too young to understand how they can have a relationship with Christ. Even Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” In fact, I am personally thankful for the people in my life who shared the Gospel message with me when I was a child. Because of these blessed adults who took the time to share with me, I accepted Christ at a young age and continue to follow Him today. 

You may be wondering how YOU can start being an effective minister to children. If so, take a look at these evangelism tools available from LET THE LITTLE CHILDREN COME. 

The goal of Let The Little Children Come is to provide effective gospel tracts, evangelism tools, and resources for children. They are not affiliated with any specific church or organization, but their products are especially designed to capture and hold children's attention, while teaching them about the message of salvation by faith alone through Jesus Christ.

I received a SAMPLE PACK of products, which included the 10 items shown in the photo above, and was impressed with the selection of colorful and interesting tools. There are pop-up booklets where an item pops out when you open the pages; there are Gospel flip-abouts that are fun to use (once you can figure out how to use them. Ha! My 14 year old son actually figured it out before I did, but its not too hard); there are classic wordless books, bead bracelets and silicone bands that all have the colors needed to share the Gospel message (Instructions for sharing are included with purchase, or can also be found on the website); and there are animated tracts that include a special plastic sheet which makes images on the page seem as if they are moving. All of these items, as well as several others can be found on the website's PRODUCT PAGE

These would be great items to use in a Sunday School class, children's church, or Vacation Bible School program, or simply to share with your own children. They might even make unique stocking stuffers this Christmas season. Regardless, they really could be helpful tools in effectively ministering to children of all ages.


NOTE: As a member of FlyBy Promotions, I received a sample of this product in exchange for this review and post. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

PHOTO(S) OF THE WEEK #28: Thanksgiving Through the Years

1 Chronicles 16:34 - Give thanks to the Lord, 
for He is good; His love endures forever. 

I don't have a picture from EVERY past Thanksgiving Day celebrated by my family, but here are some I found, starting in 1993...

Playing games has always been a fun Thanksgiving Day event. Here, in 1993, we are playing "Fast Scrabble" at Grandma's house. Pictured from left to right:  Mom, Dad, my brother Daniel, his wife Julee, one of my nephews, and Grandma.

1995 at my sister's house. Pictured:  Grandma, my nephew James, my brother Daniel, nephew Ryan, Me, brother-in-law Darren, and niece Amanda.

1998 - Our first Thanksgiving with our little EL. We are at the home of David's parents - the home he grew up in.

1999 - Hanging out at our house on Thanksgiving Day. Pictured:  Dad (taking a picture), my nephew Ryan, niece Amanda, Me, Mom, and I think that is the top of Grandma's head next to Mom.

2001 - I love this picture of Grandma with little EL, holding hands on our way in to a restaurant. We decided not to cook that year, and all went out to eat.

2002 - A fun picture of my dad and little EL at Grandma's house.

2003 - Another great picture of Dad - this time with little JJ - at Grandma's house. My nephew Ryan and Grandma are also in this picture.

2004 - We had Thanksgiving with David's side of the family this year.

2007 - Celebrating an early Christmas on Thanksgiving Day at Grandma's house.

2008 - Mom & Dad came to our house on this year.

2010 - This was one of my favorite Thanksgivings. Both my parents and David's parents were at our house that year, as well as David's brother.

2016 - This was our last Thanksgiving with Dad - another favorite year for me because all of us were together that year - Mom, Dad, my sister, brother, Me, and some of each of our families.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Day. Celebrate the blessings the Lord has given to you. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

6 Months Without Dad - It Still Hurts, But Life Is Good

Today marks 6 months since Dad passed away. Wow, that's so hard to believe. It seems like it was just yesterday when he was still here with us, sending e-mails, talking on the phone, commenting on my blog posts, liking Facebook posts, and giving lots of love and encouragement whenever he could. Oh, how I miss him (and I know many others who do as well).

When someone we love passes away, we are forced to adjust to a "new normal" without him or her in our lives. The new normal is not easy, and it hurts... a LOT...

For example, my "new normal" without my dad HURTS when: 

  • I realize I can no longer pick up the phone and give him a call.
  • His encouraging words (written or spoken) are no longer there when needed.
  • His wise Biblical advice is no longer audibly heard.
  • He is no longer there to share jokes and laughter.
  • I desire to feel his warm hugs... but can't.

But, then, as I remember my Dad’s positive outlook on life and how he would often say, “Life is good,” I see how my new normal without him can also bring beneficial changes, if I allow it.

BENEFICIAL:  producing good results or helpful effects 

My "new normal" without my dad can be BENEFICIAL when:
  • I recall some of his favorite sayings, such as "Keep short accounts with God and others," "Praise God," and "Life is good."
  • I reminisce about him with smiles and laughter.
  • I am blessed by specific comments from friends and family whose lives he touched.  
  • I focus on the positive impact he had in my life and in the lives of others.
  • I strive to follow his examples by loving God with all my heart, and by being an encouragement to others.   

When Dad would say, “Life is good,” he didn’t mean everything in his life was perfect and happy and going just as he had planned. He meant, life is good because our lives are a gift from God that is too often taken for granted. If we open our eyes, we can see just how blessed we are. We can understand what a privilege it is to be alive on this earth, and to be able to serve and worship the Lord with all of our hearts. That is why we are here.

So, yes, even though I miss my dad, I can always accept the fact that life is good. 

Thank you, Lord, for the blessing of knowing and loving this precious man who was, and will always be, a part of my life. I look forward to seeing him again someday, when we will be sitting together at Your feet. Until then, help me to be thankful for all You have done for me and to always remember that life is good.