Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our God Is With Us......Emmanuel!!!

Christmas is upon us!  Amazing how it arrives whether we are "ready" or not.

This year is somewhat different for Eddie and me.  For starters, we are "HOME", where we are surrounded with family and friends.  What a huge blessing!  However, this year has been challenging for us financially.  Our income sort of took a plunge with the move....and it's definitely been a "period of adjustment" for us.

With that in mind, we warned the kids some time ago that this would be a lean Christmas.  And, in the back of my mind, I allowed myself to harbor negative feelings about the "lack" of presents.  Every time I was out and about shopping, it seemed, I would see something that would the perfect gift for someone...and I had to pass it by.

But, as I was listening to Christmas music last night, I was struck by the words to the Steven Curtis Chapman song, "Our God Is With Us".  The sheer power of the Message in this classic song struck squarely at my hurting, resentful heart....

"And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken
As God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart
And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness
He came to earth to show our worth. 

And our God is with us, Emmanuel
He's come to save us, Emmanuel, and we will never face life alone
Now that God has made himself known
As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel
So rejoice, oh rejoice, Emmanuel has come."

 For the greatest gift of all is not any gift that appears beneath the tree, no matter how grand it might be.  The greatest gift of all was given on the night when Jesus humbly entered this world.

It was as if a bright light was turned on and I saw with clarity all the blessings bestowed upon me, and my family.  And, in that moment, I was able to let go of the negative feelings that I was allowing to stifle Joy in my heart and truly rejoice at the beauty of this season.
I hope you will click on the link below and listen to this beautiful song.  I don't know who put the video together and, yes, I know it is over 6 minutes long.  But, the music and the message are worth every second of your time!

My prayer for you this Christmas, dear Friend, is that you will be filled with all the Joy that comes from accepting the greatest gift of all.  Let us not forget the wondrous gift of that first Christmas or the comfort of knowing that our God is with us!

I am linking with Robin over at "ALL THINGS HEART & HOME" because she asked us to share about something that inspires us at Christmas....and even though there's not a Christmas decoration or recipe to be found in this post, it's all about INSPIRATION for me to share of the miracle of Jesus' birth!

Blessings to you and those you love...


Holiday Imperfections....

I want to share my Big News FIRST -

I PASSED both sections of my state real estate licensing exam!!!
(Insert heavenly chorus singing "HALLELUJAH" right here.)

I can't even begin to tell you what a relief it is to have that behind me!  For the last few weeks, it felt like I was eating/breathing/sleeping Principles of Real Estate.  For the last two weeks, I haven't even made it to the gym and my body is really letting me know it's not happy about that!

But, now I feel that I can truly slow down and focus on enjoying this special time of the year.

We've already arrived at the last week before Christmas.  Unbelievable!  But, still plenty of time to wrap...and our favorite holiday movies...and tweak the decorations.

With some time on my hands this morning, I got out and about and visited some of my favorite blogs.  So many inspiring posts, filled with awesome photos of lovely Christmas decorations....all so perfect!

However, out of the corner of my eye, this is all I can see.....

 YIKES!  Not very perfect, huh?   Eddie and I did some more Christmas shopping on Friday and this is where everything ended up....shoved behind the bed in the back bedroom!  But, in my defense, I had to get it out of sight (sort of) before the grandkids came over on Saturday.

Besides, this is the back bedroom, which serves as a guest room and office/staging area for me.  In addition to studying and hiding gifts back here, it's where all the gift-wrapping gets done.  (And, for the record, let me just say that I will never again use glittery ribbon when wrapping presents....never!  What a mess!!!)

Viewed from this angle, it truly looks like a mountain, don't it?

Oh, well, this IS "Real Life".  And sometimes, at least around here, "Real Life" gets a bit messy!   Although my attention was focused elsewhere for the last few weeks, I can now focus on getting the last of the gifts wrapped.  The ingredients for making Christmas cookies and fudge are already set out on the counter in the kitchen, just waiting for me to get started.  The house is freshly dusted, vacuumed and smelling like a Christmas tree (thanks to the wonder of a Scentsy burner); the laundry is almost caught up....

Whoa!  There I go already....planning to hustle and bustle to get everything just perfect, when mostly what I need to do is just sit down with a nice cup of coffee and Be Still, both in mind and body.

It's okay to do that once in a while.  Just let go of the desire to be perfect and embrace some of our imperfections.  (I don't know about you, but I really suck at being perfect....and I excel at being imperfect.  Consequently, learning to accept my imperfections, including a bit of mess here and there around the house, should be of utmost importance to me.)

So, as we enter the final countdown to Christmas, I hope you will excuse me as I slow down a bit and savor the moments.  After all, the kids are not going to remember how clean my house was when they look back on this Christmas.  They are going to remember the time we spent together, making treasured memories.  So, in the end, it really doesn't matter if "things" are not perfect. 

How are you spending these last couple of days?  Are you at a place where you can savor the moments and accept the imperfections? 

Wishing you peace and contentment as you prepare for the holiday...


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Making Memories....

What a magical evening this Mimi just had with Ansleigh and Trayden! 

Their mommy needed to finish up some Christmas shopping, so she dropped them by here as the sun was setting.  We loaded up car seats and headed over to McDonalds for a bite to eat.  Happy Meals all around....even the french fries were smiling!

When our tummies were full, we wound our way across town to some friends' house ~ 'cause we heard they were having a special visitor this evening.....

Yep, it was the "real deal"....the one and only, jolly ol' St. Nick!  He greeted them with a hug when we arrived. 

Then he pulled them in close for a chat on the porch.  Ansleigh was totally captivated and could not take her eyes off Santa. Well, neither could Trayden, for that matter!

They had his undivided attention and he had their's....

And, in that moment, all was perfect in their world! 

Thanks, Stacy and Dave, for opening your hearts and home to bring a whole lot of Christmas spirit and a little bit of magic to your friends and neighbors!  There just aren't enough people like you two in this world, but I'm so thankful our paths crossed and we could share this wonderful Christmas memory with you!

Big hugs all around....


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"It's About To Get Western....."

That's a line from a Gary P. Nunn song.  And one that Eddie and I often quote when we know the brown stuff is about to hit the fan!

Things are just really crazy around here!  Of course, it just wouldn't be right if things didn't get crazy right before the holidays.  Agreed?!?!? 

The good news is:  I have found a sponsoring Broker and am already involved in some training to start my real estate career!  I have gotten squared away with the Texas Real Estate Commission to take my licensing exam this Saturday morning.  So, between the studying/preparing for the exam and the training program, time has become a very precious commodity for me.

Of course, the first thing I've had to lay aside to focus on getting started with this new venture is blogging!  There just hasn't been time for posting...or visiting all of my favorite blogs out there and staying in touch. 

Hopefully, I will take my exam and pass this weekend!  That will certainly be a lightening of the load I feel upon my shoulders right now.  And, things will start to get back to "normal", or at least a new version of "normal". 

I still want to take you all on a tour of my mother's adorable little cottage and that is in the works.  And there are so many Christmas traditions and memories I want to share with you.  So, check back here after the weekend and we'll see where things stand!

In the meantime, I want to share these images with you from an outing with Bonnie and the kids to the Abilene State School's annual Christmas Lane.  Lots of fun and Christmas displays, indoors and out, and a visit with Santa!

Hoping all of you are finding Peace and Joy in this blessed time of year...


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Christmas Welcome on The Porch

Well, Friends, we have done just about all the Christmas decorating around here that we are going to do this year.  Whew!  I'm glad we have a few weeks to enjoy it now before it all has to come down and be packed away again....

Although we thought we were scaling back a bit, due to being in smaller quarters this year, we were surprised when we ended up emptying most of the boxes and bins of holiday decorations.  We were able to use just about everything we had out at our place in the country.....just in a different way. 

The icicle lights we used to put up along the edge of the roof ended up going into the garbage.  (Yep, they bit the dust and those things aren't worth salvaging when half of them don't work after 5 years.)  This year, Ed and the boys used some of those miles of small twinkle lights we already had to outline the eaves.  Then they used most of the rest of them to "wrap" the mesquite trees out front.  Here's how that turned out....

I love the sculptural look of the mesquites all lit up!

We were able to maintain the tradition of a simple evergreen wreath with a large red bow on each window along the front of the house.  And all the lighted deer, spiral trees and even the polar bear made the transition from country place to town cottage with ease.

Frosty still welcomes visitors to The Porch....

And the front door is draped with lighted garland wired up with traditional ornaments and red ribbons.  (Thank you, Lord, for shatterproof balls at the dollar store!)

The three little trees used to be scattered throughout the house, but they found a better home outside this year.  And I simply wired some more ornaments into one of the leftover window wreaths to match the garland around the door.  It hangs above my beloved rocker.

Here's a view from the side of the porch.....more twinkle lights and a glimpse of our tree in the living room through the window.

(Okay, the snowflakes in the planter box were Ed's idea.  I had other plans for that area, but they required removing all the mums from the planter and getting them transplanted in the ground...and I just ran out of steam before I got to it.  Hence, we went with Ed's idea!)

When the kids came over on Saturday evening, we made sure everything was all lit up when they arrived.  Trayden came running into the house, eyes shining, and exclaimed ~

"Mimi!  Your Christmas house is beautiful!!!" 

Ah....that made every bit of the work and effort put into decorating WORTH IT!!!

Next year, we are thinking about starting to make the transition to LED lights outside.  Have any of you tried them yet?  

I'm linking up with Robin for her "All Things Merry & Brite" party, week #5!!!  Her beautiful blog, "All Things Heart & Home" is one of my favorites....a true feast for the eyes and soul.  So, check it out!

Until next time, drop on by anytime....the door is open.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Saturday Night Tradition

Since moving back to my hometown earlier this year, I realized that our family has developed a new tradition.  Every two or three weeks, we get all the kids over for dinner here at the house. 

It's not hard to get them all together.  Just mention a free, homecooked meal to two single young men and they're there!  And for Bonnie, a busy single mother, the prospect of a sit-down dinner without having to prepare it in the confines of her tiny apartment kitchen while keeping an eye on two busy kids is sheer delight. 

We usually get together on a Saturday evening, so Ed and I have the day to prepare.  This past weekend, Ed had a slew of catfish in the freezer that needed to be cooked up.  So, he set up his deep-fryer on the back patio and went at it.  We supplemented the fried catfish with some boiled crawfish, hushpuppies, home fries and pasta salad (because, face it, some of us are just not big fans of fried fish!).

Chef Eddie.....master of the kitchen, grill and deep-fryer!
May I just say that the food was absolutely scrumptious!  Ed had previously prepared crawfish for the boys and they were already big fans.  But, this was a new food experience for Bonnie and she took right to 'em, after she got past their antennae and beady little eyes staring at her! 

Of course, the kids, every last one of them, got goofy when the camera made an appearance....

I really hope they don't act like this at work.....

Since they work in the same office!

Don't even ask......

Even Trayden and Ansleigh had trouble sitting still for me...

If Trayden sat still, Ansleigh got silly....and vice versa!

And Ed made a big production of eating his crawfish, or "sucking bugs" as he says....

I'm not sure what to think of this.....

Honestly, I thought I would never get a decent shot!  But, as I look at the images now, I realize that they are perfect!  Perfect because they capture the spirit of the evening....they reflect the fun and laughter that filled our home on this evening. 

We are so blessed to have a home where they still love to come and hang out.   And I love that we are building this new tradition as a family!

And, by the way, I did get some really decent new photos out of the evening.  No doubt, some of them will be making their way over to my sidebar in the coming days. 

Do you have a similar tradition with your family?  A special time during the busy week to sit down for a meal together and reconnect? I would love to hear about other family's traditions!  

And finally.......are your kids as dang silly as mine?!?!?!? 

Feeling so blessed, even with the empty nest....


Friday, December 3, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Off the Wall.....

Okay, totally off the subject of Christmas....and right here in the middle of so many holiday decorating linky parties.....GASP!

I try to stay away from the "controversial topics" here at Janie's Porch.  I leave all the stirring up and talk about politics and other hot issues to the hubby over on his blog.  But, I just gotta get my two cents in on this subject....even though I may be sparking off a wildfire.

I recently found myself watching a marathon of the reality series "Sister Wives" on TLC.  Let me tell you, it was like a train wreck....I couldn't look away or turn the channel!

I watched in a mixture of fascination and disgust as America was introduced to this man and his three-soon-to-be-four wives.  In the back of my mind, I am thinking "Why on earth am I even watching this???"  But, curiosity got the better of me and I stayed tuned.

Let me just say right off to those of you who might possibly be of that religious persuasion that allows polygamy - "Sorry if I offend you.  I'm not judging you, but I just don't get it."

These women, the wives, seem intelligent and articulate - and very human.  They talk of how they struggle with jealousy one moment, but how much they love being in a "plural marriage" the next.

The husband - well, something about him just sorta rubs me the wrong way.  He comes across - to me, and this is only my opinion - as a bit self-centered and self-absorbed.  Maybe the word I'm looking for is conceited.  Let me put it this way - it looks like he spends more time on his blow-dried hair than any of his wives do.  

These women "share" this man, living under one roof as he passes nightly from wife to wife for their time together.  The women truly seem to have developed a strong support network amongst themselves and their children.  Childcare is certainly never an issue with three other moms in the house.   They pool their resources and share responsibilities in the home even though they all have a designated living area for themselves and their children.

I like to think that I am an open-minded person....that I refrain from judging (because Lord knows I've been judged enough to know how destructive and hurtful that is).  But, I have the following questions and issues with this matter:

How exactly does a woman "share" her husband?  How does she step back and watch him have an intimate emotional and sexual relationship with three other women?  Jealousy?  Oh, yeah, I imagine that would be omnipresent.  I know it would be my constant companion.

Logistics....try to imagine all these wives and kids (16 at the moment) in one place, all the time.  The word chaos comes to my mind.  I have nothing against large families, but this is a lot of people living together!  And how weird would it be to know your husband is down the hall spending the night with another woman right in the same house?

And what about things from a financial perspective?  Legally, only the first wife is recognized as a spouse.  How does dependent health coverage work?  How do they file on their tax returns? 

Why is it acceptable for a man to have multiple wives, but, according to this man himself, "vulgar" for a woman to do the same.  Don't even get me started on the double standard here....

Most men struggle with being sensitive to and handling one woman's feelings and needs.  What equips this guy to deal with four at once???  Is he Superman?  Superhuman?

And, most importantly, why does he get to have the sexy little sports car to zip around in and not have to lug kids' carseats?

Is polygamy morally sound?  Biblically based?   Wasn't that only in the Old Testament? 

Why did these people allow television crews to come into their home?  According to them, they wanted people to understand the lifestyle.  But, prior to this show, they kept their family relationship hidden from some.  One of the wives has even lost her job due to the exposure since her employer did not know she was in a polygamous (and consequently illegal) relationship. 

It's a real "can of worms", isn't it?

I'm not going to say these people are "wrong", but I know that it is not a lifestyle I personally could deal with or adopt.  Like I said before, I just don't understand it.  And I could never handle it emotionally.   Does that make those women "better" or "stronger" in their character and faith that they can control their emotions and deal with this situation?

So, have you watched the show?  I'd love to know what your thoughts are.

Okay, that's my two cents' worth and I'm hopping down off the soapbox now.  It's kinda scary up there anyway....I don't care for heights.


    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Gone to the Birds....

    I was just taking a look around at all the Christmas decor....and noticed something....

    See a theme developing here?

    Then, I looked around my house....and, by golly, I do love my birds!

    Just a note ~ yep, that is a nice layer of dust I've got going on top of the bookcase, beneath the little green bird.  I do dust!  Regularly, in fact!  But, that dang bookcase is so tall....I have to drag a chair in there to dust on top.  Besides, no one ever sees way up there....right???

    I find myself a bit surprised to realize that I have such a growing collection.  It just kinda snuck up on me!  Has that ever happened to you?   Please assure me that it has!

    Since I have "feathered my nest", so to speak, I am linking up with French Country Cottage's "Feathered Nest Holiday".  Check it out each Friday in December to see what's new and get inspired!

    Warm winter wishes...


    Tuesday, November 30, 2010

    Adding a Bit of Window Whimsy....

    Well, we've been plenty busy decking the halls around here!  And this year I wanted to do something fun around some of the many windows in our home.

    It all started with the wide set of three windows in the living room.  They were just begging to be accessorized....and this was my super simple solution!

    I simply took traditional colored shatterproof balls, purchased dirt cheap at Dollar Tree (I got 21 for $3), added pre-cut 20-gauge floral wire and a snippet of left-over ribbon.  To get the whimsical curly-q look of the wire, I wrapped it around the handle of a wooden spoon from the kitchen and then stretched and bent it a bit, making a loop to hang over the curtain rod.

    These provided just the touch I was looking for to provide a festive frame above the window.  So, I made more....for the window behind the tree....

    Hey, I was on to something, why stop in the living room?!?!?  I added some to the windows in our bedroom.  This time I used a box of bronze ornaments purchased at WalMart ($5 for 12).  Fortunately, the green, red and gold colors in our room already lend a holiday feel to the room!

    Finally, I focused on Ed's little office, which has a Texas theme anyway.  These cute little wire star ornaments were 2/$1 at Dollar Tree, so this double window got "the treatment", too.  

    I'm tickled with the added element of whimsy....and the way the hanging ornaments reflect the light in the rooms, both day and evening.  It was an easy, quick project that didn't break the budget.  (All three rooms came in at $11 for the ornaments; I used leftover ribbon and wire I already had.)

    I'm linking up with Robin over at "All Things Heart and Home" for her "All Things Merry & Brite" party.  If you take a moment to click on the link, I know you will be blown away by all the great ideas and inspiration of Merry & Brite party-goers! 

    If you've come up with a simple solution to stretch your decorating dollar for the holidays in a non-traditional way, I would love to hear about it!

    Keep it warm, Friends!


    Triggering Christmas Memories

    Our large tree in the living room is filled with so many special decorations.....I have been collecting unique ornaments since I was a child!

    It was a tradition started by our next door neighbor, whom we affectionately called NaNa, when I was probably only about 6 or 7 years old.  She selected a special, albeit inexpensive, ornament for her granddaughter, my sister and me every year.  My mother quickly adopted the same practice.  So, by the time I was grown and started my own tree, I already had quite a collection.

    Of course, some of those early additions have not survived the years.  But, I still have many of them and they all have a special place in my heart.  Among them....


    There are a couple of ornaments that I clearly remember making.  This wooden candy cane was my effort when our fifth grade class painted ornaments to decorate the class tree.

    And this beaded candy cane was made in a missions class at church about the same time.

    I was fortunate enough to find a box containing a few of my grandparents' ornaments after my grandmother passed away.  They are among my favorites!


    Throughout my adult years, I have continued to add unique ornaments....those that catch my eye or "speak" to me.

    And, of course, I love the set of Shiny Brite reproductions (found in Fredericksburg on a hot summer day, no less!) and the clip-on candles I found at Dollar General (gotta love the dollar store for some great decor on the cheap!)....

    Our tree may be a hodgepodge of many different types and style of ornaments, but it is filled with wonderful memories.  I get a warm, fuzzy feeling just unwrapping the ornaments and placing them among the branches each year.  

    Every once in a while, I toy with the idea of starting fresh and decorating a tree with a specific, cohesive theme or color scheme.....but, it's always a fleeting idea!  

    How about your family's tree?  Do you have some of those priceless, irreplaceable and sentimental ornaments like I do?  I would love to hear about it if you do!  

    And now for lots of vintage inspiration, I am linking with Debra at "Common Ground" for "Vintage Inspiration Friday". If you love the use of older ornaments and such when decorating for the holidays, I guarantee you will be blown away!

    Relishing the moment....

    Capturing a Magical Light

    After several gray days of frigid temperatures, along with a bit of ice and a flurry or two of snow, the sun shone brilliantly on New Year&...