Archive | December 2013

Quotes to Inspire

New Year 2014Can you believe this is the last day of 2013?

There was a time that I lacked enthusiasm for New Year celebrations or setting resolutions. But that’s changed.

Life at times can look like a long, continuous, never-ending road stretching out to the horizon. I think that is the beauty in New Year’s Day – it’s a bend in the road, maybe a right or left turn. Perhaps you’re still going straight.

None of us are perfect and we sometimes need to take a breather and have a fresh start. Shake off past mistakes, resolve to move ahead. Reflect on our life—both on where it has been and where we’d like to go.

So in honor of a new year and new beginnings…here are some quotes to consider:

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
– L.M. Montgomery

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”
– Edith Lovejoy Pierce

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

“Hope
Smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”
– Alfred Tennyson

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
– Anne Frank

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
– Harriet Beecher Stowe

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.
Martin Luther

Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.
– Henry Ford

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Thomas Edison

If you’re running a 26-mile marathon, remember that every mile is run one step at a time. If you are writing a book, do it one page at a time. If you’re trying to master a new language, try it one word at a time. There are 365 days in the average year. Divide any project by 365 and you’ll find that no job is all that intimidating.
Charles (Chuck) Swindoll

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
Bill Vaughn

Wishing all our readers and fellow bloggers a very Happy 2014!

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Will you be making any resolutions this year?

Book Review: Sex and the Single Christian Girl by Marian Jordan Ellis

A powerful book that provides real, honest help for Christian women – Marian Jordan Ellis has written an insightful guide.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl tackles the lies that have deceived many young women and torn their hearts to pieces. Ellis explains that her single years were like a war zone as she fought a relentless battle to protect her purity and her heart.

“In a culture where virgin is deemed a dirty word, it is rare that a young woman today would see her purity as worth fighting for,” she writes. To read those words – to have someone acknowlege the battle and the seeming futility of it – goes a long way to encourage weary warriors.

She provides practical advice on how to identify the enemy’s lies and to fight back. A welcome relief from advice about “how far is too far” and preparing for marriage, this book delves into the heart issues of why and when a young woman is susceptible, such as this: “One of the most vulnerable times of our life is when we are in pain. In our heartaches, sadness and unmet desires, Satan slithers in with his deceptions.”

Ellis draws from her own experiences of having grown up as a church girl, then being involved in hook ups and heartaches. She was saved and faced many long, lonely years of singleness and recently married. While this perspective allows for true-to-life encouragement, it falls short for, as Ellis calls us, “the ones who have waited.” Her advice is a one-paragraph warning to not be prideful because temptation can strike at any time.

Most of the book targets the temptation Christian women face of sleeping with their boyfriend before marriage. It’s probably the most honest, encouraging book on this specific issue that has been written. However, it is not a comprehensive guide for the other, complex issues a single woman faces as she wages one of the most important battles she will ever fight. As Ellis writes in the conclusion, “Purity is a lifelong pursuit without a finish line.”

I would recommend this book especially for twenty-somethings. It may also be appropriate for older teens. Women in their thirties and beyond will also find it helpful, though not the target audience.

I received this book from Bethany House in exchange for writing an honest review.

Christmas Isn’t Always Picture Perfect

Sometimes December 25th is a let-down. I hesitate to call the day by its celebrated name because somehow, that seems lightening-strike wrong, but you know what day I mean.

Hallmark movies portray the ideal Christmas day even if the rest of the storyline has the right amount of conflict in it. By Christmas day, everyone is together and happy. There’s snow on the ground and a perfect fire in the fire-place. The house is clean and beautifully decorated. You get the picture–you’ve probably seen the movie!

This year, as I drove to my parents for Christmas lunch, I started writing this blog in my head. I had two boys with me while dad stayed home with the one who was sick. His head had hurt so much that morning that he didn’t even smile when he finally unwrapped his new waders and goose decoys. The car was silent as my annoyance built because one of the boys with me had hardly said two words all day–maybe a muttered thank you, but I figured he just wasn’t happy about his gifts (realized later he didn’t feel good either). Not a lot of excitement and joy at the Meisinger house that morning, and I was disappointed.

You see, I have an idea of what December 25th should look like. Over the years, I’ve worked hard to make it look like the images in my head. I want everything to be perfectly decorated. I want perfect foods. I want perfect kids who respond in the perfect way–oh yes, I want to control that too! This year I seemed to have no control of ANYTHING. Before Thanksgiving I could see it was going to be a different holiday season. Working full-time for the first time in many years caused me to abandon some of the perfect ideas. Only the tree got decorated until the day before Christmas when I put a small tree with lights in the kitchen just so I could enjoy a tree in the room I was in! Our traditions from past years didn’t happen. For the first time EVER I was shopping on Christmas Eve. A winter storm caused church to be cancelled the Sunday before Christmas and a sick son kept me home on Christmas Eve.

Driving to my folks was somewhat of a pity-party. Christmas day wasn’t the least bit Hallmarkish. I was frustrated and I felt terrible for my sick one at home. Then guilt hit. That guilty feeling of knowing you are the only one who feels let down on Christmas. Everyone else is celebrating Jesus’ birth and you’re the only one who isn’t a good enough Christian to see beyond the trappings. Anyone else know that guilt???

Then it hit me–Christmas isn’t just on December 25th. With all the perfect images and expectations I have in my head, how could the day be anything but disappointing when it doesn’t play out like a movie? You’d think at my age I’d realize it’s impossible to control another persons mood or their physical health. We don’t know what day Jesus was born on yet we build up this one day, December 25th, into such a huge idea that it’s a let down if it doesn’t come off picture perfect.

What if I celebrated the birth of Jesus for the next 364 days?

What if I lived my life as an act of worship to him all day, everyday?

What if I was truly in awe of the precious gift God gave to us each day in 2014?

What if I really focused on Him all year-long instead of trying to fit it all in between Thanksgiving and December 25th?

Perhaps my new word for 2014 is somewhere in these thoughts: celebrate, worship, awe, focus. Whatever the word will be, I’m excited and relieved with this thought. I can’t control one day of the year (especially one that involves so many other people), but I can celebrate, worship, be in awe of, and focus on him each day for the next year. A new beginning. Another chance. Perfect!

Sara

Christmas Joy!

This ornament was given to me years ago by a dear friend. Don't you love it when a decoration brings back warm memories?

This ornament was given to me years ago by a dear friend. Don’t you love it when a decoration brings back warm memories?

In January, each of us picked a word for the year. My word was “joy”. It has been a wonderful practice to give something particular focus, dig deep and apply the learning to everyday life.

Joy was always something that I didn’t think was as important to develop as other aspects of Christian character. But as I began my study I found that joy was as essential to my faith as love. Two great Bible teachers, RC Sproul and Jerry Bridges, both wrote very similarly about joy. To my surprise, both indicated that an absence of joy was to deny the faith.

I’ve learned this past year that joy does not depend upon my circumstances. That in life, we will always experience happy times, but also difficult times. We are imperfect people, living in a broken world. But our joy is in knowing we are loved by Christ who came to bring us the Good News that he came to rescue us and all of creation.

So this Christmas season, I wish you JOY as we celebrate the coming of our Lord.

I think the angels speaking to shepherds near Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago said it well…

“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14    “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

–  Luke 2:10-14 (KJV)

Blessings,

Cherie GagnonCherie

Christmas is…. A True Story

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And “I love to tell the story.”

Merry day-before-the-day-before Christmas!

~Susan

Away in a Manger

I’m not in the least bit crafty, and I have no picture of one of our traditional Christmas goodies, so opted to share an ornament instead.

We never made a big issue of Santa Claus in our home.  It wasn’t that we were against it–my mom even hired a Santa Claus one year to come when we were celebrating at their home.  Complete with blue eye shadow–which my girls picked up on instantly–mainly because they were still too young to wear it themselves.

The biggest factor was that the daddy in this household was a firefighter, and thus wasn’t always home on Christmas morning to watch his kiddos be surprised at what Santa brought them.  So we chose, instead, to make Christmas any day daddy was home, and tried to teach them the real meaning.  I might add, that none of our children are scarred from this…nor was it ever a huge issue.

One year, at our local Ben Franklin store, they had tiny plastic nativity sets–at a bargain price, marked down from 10 cents to 8 cents and they each came in their own little box.  I probably used grocery money–naughty me–to buy a plethora of these tiny little manger scenes to hang on our tree, and from then on they were always a part of our Christmas decor.

I still have these, boxes and all.  Some of the glitter has rained off their tiny rooftops, some are missing a sheep or a wiseman, and the grocery string hangars are a bit soiled. But all were handled, played with, and eventually hung back on the tree.

I have nothing against Santa Claus. And I love the glitter and lights and shiny baubles on my tree. I love the cookies and the choirs and ugly sweaters and family dinners.  However, allow me this one rant:  The idea of Santa Claus gives way to only the ‘good’ children getting gifts.  That breaks my heart.  Because, you see–the Real One, for Whom we celebrate–came especially for  us who were not nearly ‘good enough’, nor could we ever be, and He came anyway!!  The best present is His Presence, and it is not earned, given, nor withheld  because we are naughty or nice. And it comes with no marked-down price…but is FREE!

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Plasticine Christmas Pictures

plasticine Christmas pictureHere is fun craft that my youngest son made at school 3 years ago – plasticine pictures in a shadow box frame. It turned out beautifully and we keep it with our Christmas decorations and put it on display each year.

Supplies:
– Colored cardboard or card stock
– Plasticine
– Shadow box frame
Optional: glitter, glue, buttons, mini pom-poms – anything for added embellishment

To make this craft, you create objects with plasticine and pressed them onto a piece of cardboard, pinching down the sides. In this case, Nathan made a pretty wreath. The greenery has nice texture and he used toothpicks to make lines to show the folds of the ribbon. He signed and dated the corner using a silver pen to stand out against the black. Then the picture was mounted in a shadow box frame, something that could be found at your local dollar store.
The picture ideas are endless—Christmas trees, nativity scenes, snowmen, candles… This craft would be easy to do at home and would make a lovely gift!

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Are there any handmade decorations you’ve kept each year?

Christmas Dipping

Making Christmas cookies and treats is just about my favorite thing of the season.

I’m baking things for my family and the office Christmas party on Tuesday. Saturday, I also had the chance to bake cookies for Jesus. Several years ago, some ladies in our church started a ministry to give plates of cookies to prisoners at the county jail. Many of the prisoners have written thank you notes. For these men and women who are at the lowest point in their life, to know someone thought of them  and cared enough to make homemade cookies really meant a lot.

This year, I felt compelled to share with them. Nothing fancy, just brownies and dipped pretzels (a personal favorite). And as I cooked, I prayed for the prisoners, that they would not just have a treat, but know Christ, who came to set the captives free.

almond barkWhen I opened the almond bark (What a strange name! I checked the ingredients, there is no almond or no bark in it.) I was delighted to discover that great innovations had been made in packaging. Instead of one solid brick that requires a hammer to break, it was packaged in a tray in neat little chunks, making it easy to select just what you need.

Almond bark is Christmas tradition. What is your favorite thing to dip in it?

Happy baking and dipping!

~ Susan

Flying By

Remember those long, slow days when you thought Christmas would never come? The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was painful because it seem to take as long as the previous eleven months. What happened?

It didn’t help that Thanksgiving was at the end of the month and by that Sunday we were turning the calendar to December. At school, that’s meant we had to hustle to get Christmas art work finished and on the walls so someone would have the chance to enjoy them.

My FACS girls have been busy doing really important things–baking and candy making! Last week it was scones, rolls and cinnamon rolls. This week our healthy menu has included caramels, toffee, peanut brittle and four flavors of fudge. AFTER Christmas we’ll do a unit on nutrition!

Here’s one of the recipes a group made on Wednesday.
Turtle Fudge
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
15 KRAFT caramels
2 tablespoons water
1 c. pecan pieces
Directions:
1. Line and 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on both sides. Set aside.
2. Place the unwrapped caramels and water in a microwave safe bowl.
3. Use a double boiler to melt chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk; add vanilla.
4. When the fudge mixture is about to be ready, place the bowl of caramels in the microwave and heat on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Once melted, stir in 1 cup pecan pieces. Set aside.
5. Pour half of the fudge into prepared pan Spoon the caramel pecan mixture over the fudge. Spoon remaining fudge over the top (reheat if necessary). Chill in refrigerator until firm, about 2 hours.

I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe! Have a wonderful weekend and hang on–I’m sure the next week and a half will only fly by faster!

Sara

What if….

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Remember the song….If Everyone Lit Just One Little Candle?   Well…what if…

What if…in these days when the world seems so dark…we do it?  What if every believer reading this would put one little candle in a window that could be seen by anyone passing?  And…

What if…behind that candle one could find a smiling neighbor, new friend, shelter, solace, welcome?  And…

What if…We–who call ourselves Christians–stop lamenting the condition of the world around us, and let a candle in the window show we have A Hope above all others?…And…

What if…we kept a candle burning in at least one window all year long?  Why not?  

Remember how the song goes?  ….What a Bright World This Would Be!!

WHAT IF? 

 

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