And to All,... A Good Night!

The end of a wonderful Christmas Day in our home. We have no (blood) family in this town. That has left the 4 of us to become rather selfish with our Christmas Day. Maybe I'm doing my children a disservice, but it's pretty much a day devoted to whatever the world we wanna do. Which looked like this today: Wii, waffles, more Wii, a nap for me, more Wii, Ashley and Troy hunting, Wii challenge for Riley and me, a walk for Duchess and me, dinner, and now the Wii blazes on.

Oh... we got a Wii, can you tell? Back when two incomes were still rolling into this family, Santa sprung for a Wii and WiiFit for the fam. The WiiFit ... a little humbling, to say the least. I'm in not-bad-shape, but I can't get my WiiFit to even tell me I am my OWN age, much less any younger. Bummer. Leaves me with a goal, I guess.

I'm curious about the food traditions for Christmas for you... Breakfast? What's always on the menu? We have ALWAYS had 'monkey bread', but this year Troy wanted waffles. So, the kids agreed to waffles if I'll do monkey bread soon. Saturday it is. Also, we don't do turkey, et. al for Christmas day. I do something my whole family likes and will eat. Today, none of the cooking went too well. I burned the sausage with the waffles. The waffles didn't come out right. The dish I make for dinner we call "Angel Hair". Guess which kind of pasta I failed to pick up? *sigh* Again, this day is for screw ups and do-overs and rejoicing in the One whose mercies are new every morning. Good thing -- my cooking brain definitely took a holiday today!

That confession is especially for those friends that I boasted to yesterday "I am DONE with my shopping -- I plan ahead!!" Pride before the fall, as well as the spaghetti called "Angel Hair".

So tomorrow brings me back to more wrapping and planning and packing for another Christmas. Oh -- I didn't mention my ONE cooking success. Gingersnaps. OH. MY. STARS. I have easily eaten two dozen -- I'm not exaggerating a cookie, and may be underestimating. I got a WONDERFUL recipe that made a HUGE batch. Thankfully, after my gorging, I still have about 6 dozen to take to Louisiana. I really need them away from me. Maybe if I just eat them all at once...

Roxanne is Christmas without her daddy.

Judy is Christmas without her son.

John is Christmas without his son.

Prayers for each of these precious people and their families.

Hard Christmas for so many, but "we do not grieve as one without hope". Our hope lay in the hay thousands of years ago, just for us. May you find His blessings this season.


Good News of Great Joy for All the People

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." 13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:8-14

I mentioned about the 'big hoo-rah' at the Civic Center this weekend and that I interpreted (for the deaf) portions of it. I interpreted the above paragraph no fewer than 3 times. And every time it went way too fast --not only for me to interpret appropriately, but for anyone (especially the one interpreting) to really SAVOR that glorious news. I love it so much, and wanted to share it again here.

Two parts that I just want to camp out on:
1)I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
This isn't good news only for the people with pretty clothes, pretty breath, and good hair. This isn't good news only for the people who can buy good news when they need some. This isn't good news only for the people that life seems to already smile upon. This is good news OF GREAT JOY that is for ALL! THE PEOPLE!!! It's for you -- wondering if you will ever actually find a job and not knowing how you'll ever pay for a trip to the doctor even now that you are sick. It's for you -- staggering through the depths of grief without a road map and seemingly without a flicker of light. It's for you -- not able to believe sin brought your life to this point and having no idea if you'll ever be able to crawl out of the pit you're in. It's for you -- too busy with the hustle and bustle of this crazy season to be able to stop and think about the wonderful news.

It's for all of us, this hope. Imagine a brand-spankin' new baby. Little turtle eyes trying to blink away the bright light of this world, hair swirled and stuck to a new scalp with the aroma of new baby built in, and tongue tasting the air. How can you see a new baby and not have hope? What if that baby is our Savior? What if that baby will become the grown-up that will sacrifice it all for YOU? Oh, the hope that comes with the baby smell. It's good news of great joy for all the people.

2)Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.
Right there, in the same sentence: God is IN THE HIGHEST -- and we have His favor. His favor rests on us, and the angels pray for peace for each of us. Precious, precious words.

In the middle of this, I read this (linked from Mike Cope's blog) and I PROMISE you will not regret reading it. And, like Mike, I shall steal the last two lines of the article:

And as the bus pulled away, all the Gainesville players crammed to one side and pressed their hands to the window, staring at these people they'd never met before, watching their waves and smiles disappearing into the night.

Anyway, with the economy six feet under and Christmas running on about three and a half reindeer, it's nice to know that one of the best presents you can give is still absolutely free.


Blessings, Merry Christmas, may you find His Hope and favor this year.


Found It!

Finally seem to have found my Christmas spirit! I said yesterday that I found it at TaMolly's (my favorite local Mexican food place) and that was partially true -- when it's 29* outside, a heaping plate of fajitas can help you get in the Christmas spirit! But it also helped that most of my obligations for Christmas were OVER at that point and it is now time to ENJOY!!

THIS is my favorite part of Christmas: my shopping -- grocery AND gifts -- is completely done. Concerts, parties, and programs are all finished. This last weekend was a good warm-up to Christmas spirit. Troy's family came in town -- his dad, his brother, brother's wife, and brother's son -- about 6 months younger than Riley. It was a BRIEF Christmas celebration, they didn't stay long, but we had a good time and we are thankful they were able to make the trip out. It was pretty much the only way we could do Christmas (on a weekend) with those guys. Our family was obligated here with another highlight of the weekend -- our church's Community Christmas Celebration. Troy was one of many folks who coordinated and orchestrated a beautiful worship service for Sunday, so we would be unable to leave town for this weekend.

So, I cooked a grand meal for all of us for a "Christmas lunch" for Saturday afternoon before we opened presents. Then Troy had to leave to oversee some of the hoo-ha surrounding the church service while the rest of us played and rested. Later we all went downtown to see "It's a Wonderful Life" at the Paramount. I've seen IAWL at least a million six times, but all of them on TV, which, I now know, cuts out A LOT of that movie. If you can see it full length -- do that. It is so precious. Also, the danger (for me) in watching it on TV is that I'm always just kind of half-watching AND ... cleaning the kitchen, or wrapping gifts, or folding laundry. Whatever. I know the TV version starts with the prayers all going up for George Bailey, but I had forgotten. And there I started crying while the movie was starting. We can never know how much others' prayers for us alter the course of our lives, therefore we can never be truly grateful for it.

Sunday morning, even with extra time to get ready, was still quite hectic around here. Finally made it to the civic center (where the Community Celebration was going to be). Troy was already there on his little walkie-talkie! I interpreted some of the songs. It was a beautiful, meaningful service. As much as I know LOTS of work went into it, I also know all of the 'what-ifs' that didn't happen. God was in every little detail so that no one would walk away thinking of a goof, but thinking of the glorious miracle that came to our planet in the form of a little baby.

I asked Tammy to bring her camera Sunday morning so that we could capture a pic while we were all together and the kids all had on clean clothes. ALMOST all of the pics in this post are hers. It was good to get a decent pic of all of us -- one of us is new in the family! Todd married Amy this summer in San Diego. This is her first Christmas as a Stirman -- and what a wonderful addition she is! I enjoy her immensely, as do the rest of my family.

Then off to TaMolly's we went -- where my Christmas spirit seemed to finally find me!

Which brings me to the only picture here that Tammy didn't take. This is my day:

I have been in front of the fire with my bunnies. I have read -- my Bible, Stephen King, and Reader's Digest (I'm not picky -- just didn't want to get up). The fire has died down a little since I've been in here -- reading blogs and writing one! I had one thing on my 'to do' list today: NOTHING!! I wanted to sit by the fire and read. And I have and it has been GLORIOUS. Ashley and I are supposed to work out. She wants to stay in basketball shape over the break because her coach has promised her she shall die on January 6 when she returns to practice. I am currently listening to "A Very Veggie Christmas" on purpose. Yes, my children are too old for it, but it has become a family tradition and I love it. So, I must return to my nothingness and stoke the fire so that I can prop my bunnies to stay warm. I thought it was supposed to get up to 40* today, but it's going to have to hurry to get over 35*!!

Stay warm, and find a way to do NOTHING in your holiday!


Christmas Memories

Last year when I wrote about celebrating Christmas in honor of my Poppa Max, who we lost in October of 2007, I mentioned his efforts to keep the magic of Christmas alive for little ones. The Christmas before that (2006), I was really stumped about what to give Poppa Max for Christmas. Here was a 90-year-old man, basically house-bound, and medication made it all but impossible for him to follow the plot of a movie or book. I did all I know to do: I wrote something for him -- I told him how much memories of Christmas with him meant to me.

Turns out that was Poppa Max's last Christmas this side of heaven. So when we cleaned out his office, I was given the framed essay back. I thought I had shared it here, but don't guess I have:

"As the only daughter of the only child of Max and Maxine Riley, I was never in need. Gifts and attention were both lavished on me to almost embarrassing proportions.

Of course, Christmas was no exception. In the weeks before the big day I would crawl around, through, over, and under the maze of gifts beneath Nonna and Poppa's tree -- but only after I had thoroughly exhausted all enjoyment from the Christmas tree box. Under the tree I would marvel at the growing number of gifts and check to be sure there were plenty for me.

Christmas Eve was most excruciating as Kevin and I pinballed around the house rushing the adults to finish making dinner, finish serving dinner, and then finish eating dinner. The huge pile of gifts had been relocated to under our tree and they were simply begging us to dive in!

One Christmas Eve -- too many ago to count -- Max had a great idea to help me while away the time after dinner. We called some tiny friends from church -- probably some faithful "customers' of Maxine's gum wallet -- and convinced them that Poppa's enormous bass voice could only be the voice of Santa Claus. Some of the children told "Santa" that, yes, they would go to bed on time, and of course they had been good all year. One little one was simply stunned into uncharacteristic silence, so her mother had to chime in, "Santa, Candace is nodding!"

I think we did that for at least two or three years. I don't know why we started or why we stopped, but that is still one of my most precious Christmas memories. I have very vague memories of a few of the many gifts through the years: a Barbie airplane, Merlin, some beanbag chairs -- all long gone. But I'll never forget when Poppa Max joined in and extended the magic of Christmas."


Coffee Group Defined

I am a blessed woman on SO many levels. One is the abundant riches I have in friendships. I have friends far and near that time has forged into sisters for me. One of those beautiful friends sent me a video this week that just "got it". Then another beautiful friend sent me the same video. I posted it on Coffee Group website because it really defines who we are and what we mean to each other in Coffee Group. I encourage you to take a few minutes, grab a Kleenex, and go check it out.


1 Corinthians 13, Christmas Style

This is a blog repeat for me. I got it via email years ago, and it struck a chord with me, so I printed it pretty and framed it. It is included in my Christmas decorations and I always stop and read every line before I put it out. Along these lines, I have proclaimed that my outdoor Christmas lights do testify that Jesus came so that EVERYONE'S light could shine -- not just those whose lights shine all in a pretty row with no sagging or whopper-jawed spots. That's grace, and those whopper-jawed lights are on my home. And like Rudolph, they shine their little crooked hearts out.
May this season be a blessing to you and yours.
If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, prparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.
But giving the gift of love will endure.
---Author Unknown
I Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love."


Another Survey

Well, how 'bout THAT for an unannounced little bloggy break? I would love to tell you that I was feeding the poor while entertaining holiday guests in my beautifully decorated home, but no. I have no idea WHAT I was doing. I did go to physical therapy a few times and that is just a really good thing, people. Get yourself into some physical therapy to fix what ails you! My friend Megan will be one soon -- and she will rock! And, I did a little decorating and a little wrapping but still have lots to put together around here. Not much left to wrap, though -- when your family goes from 2 incomes to one a month or two before the bottom falls out of the stock market, Christmas isn't quite as extravagant as other years. I'm not complaining -- no one in my family can really think of anything they NEED, so that's a pretty sweet Christmas gift right there.

So while I continue to finish up holiday obligations over here, I have a question for you: what song is sung in a church setting (devos, kids worship, house church, etc. all count) that you would really be okay to NEVER hear/sing again? Not for emotional reasons, just because it bugs you? Leave out the ones that just don't make sense scripturally ("There Shall Be Showers of Blessing" and "Mansion Over the Hilltop" come to mind -- and "Back, Back Train") but just give me one ... or five, your call ... that you just don't enjoy.

I'll tell you mine, and I do so with trepidation because it comes from beautiful scripture, but IT. HAS. BEEN. DONE. Again and again and again my soul has panted for Him as a deer pants for the water. Now we sing a newer version at church that has a better feel/ melody/ something that I ENJOY but I really don't enjoy the late '80's version of "As the Deer". Sorry if it's your favorite.

Someone has to tell my husband that he has to comment because his is hilarious. He's sung it a time or twelve at funerals and if you need to sing it at his funeral, you are not invited to come OR sing! :-)

THIS song is an 'oldie' that I am loving lately. I bought Travis Cottrell's Christmas CD off iTunes, and this is the last song. I am LOVING it being in with my Christmas music. Enjoy.


Good Things Out There

Moms can relate.

Jana shares some awesome wisdom of elves that we all can live by.

Troy's grandmother is in heaven clapping her hands in glee at the way you can make a Target bag become a beautiful topper to your gift. Seriously, are holiday bows that much of a problem in our landfills?

Tip Junkie is at it again! Precious gifts to make (not gonna happen here) or even cute Christmas cards (these were in a contest --not for the craftily challenged!)

This isn't how I feel about Christmas, but the light guy takes me to my childhood -- naming no names, of course... I'm still laughing.

This IS how I feel about Christmas:


Fitness Friday: Fit for Life

Okay, I've had a 'Fitness Friday' request, and will get to it, but my current ailment has caused me to think about why it's important to be fit. Last week, as we all know by now, I sprained my ankle fairly badly out on a jog. Good reason NOT to jog, you might say, and we can sure argue that all day long. But immediately my body had to make some compensation. First, I was on crutches for the better part of 5 days. I was VERY thankful I've been lifting weights, as much as I HATE doing it! It wasn't easy, but my upper body was able to drag around my plenty-ample lower body when necessary. No doubt, it worked WAY better when I got crutches the right size (I used Riley's -- about 5 inches too short-- for the first 24 hours). I was very thankful that I didn't have to add back, neck, shoulder, and arm pain to my foot pain.

My dad has had his fair share of surgeries in this life. One thing I have learned from and appreciated about him is that he works HARD to go into a surgery in top cardiovascular shape to help his body recover from surgery. It sounds crazy (a little bit) until you think about why we work out. He's not working out to improve a running time or fit into a smaller size, he is working out so that his cardiovascular system is ready for the stress and trauma it will go through under anesthesia and will recover from it quickly. Sure, he KNOWS that as soon as he has the surgery his body won't be able to do what it could the day BEFORE the surgery. Some may consider this a setback, unless they were doing their 'training' for such a time as this!

We dont' always know when life will throw us a curve ball (or a pecan to step on) and we will end up under anesthesia or on crutches. Exercise not only strengthens your system to handle such physical stress, but keeps us mentally healthy under such conditions. I would encourage you to be thinking about how you train for life, or whatever life will throw at you!

I encouraged someone about getting fit this week, and they said that my admonition had really helped and they wanted me to share it with you. I actually think I may have, but don't see it right off the bat here, so let's hear it again anyway, shall we?

Said friend has health issues because of weight, but knows, because she is wise, that December 1 isn't REALLY the time to go on some crazy all-or-nothing diet, right? (It's not, people, trust me on this). However, the entire month of December is entirely TOO LONG to go 'not caring' or knowing that you're starting a diet Jan. 1 and overeating for the entire month to 'get ready'. I encouraged her to do this one thing: Weigh every day. Again, I KNOW there can be all manner of emotional baggage tied with whatever that number is, but you need to know it and face it. Do NOT allow that number to judge you, but to be a reference tool about what is really going on in your body. And you simply ask yourself, as you look at that number: "What can I do TODAY to make that number a little lower tomorrow?" The first thing you can do is drink a LOT of water. It helps, but then reality has to kick in, and the next day, you'll need to drink a LOT of water, and stop eating a little earlier in the evening, or leave a few extra bites on your plate. It isn't making the scale your judge or master, but it's becoming aware of the little tiny changes you can make to improve your health.

This I did find looking through old Fitness Friday: "The world isn't at a shortage of information about how to lose weight or become more fit." We all know what to do, we have to make the daily decision to do it.

Be fit for life!


Winter Cooking

Cold front came through! When Ashley was little, because I love Winnie the Pooh and because I love words, I taught her to say, "It's a blustery day!" when it was, in fact, blustery. Very funny to hear coming from a little golden, curly-haired, round-tummied toddler. And it has been most blustery out here in the desert.

Today is amazingly busy -- I am substitute teaching in PE at the elementary school (yes, me and my boot!), have physical therapy after school, then Ashley has a basketball game until well past my bedtime. I confess I had my alarm set for my 5:30 a.m. bicycle class, but just couldn't do it today. Anytime I do that, I usually lay in bed wide awake feeling guilty for skipping, but not today! Slept that extra hour just fine, thankyouverymuch! With such a busy day that is also cold, it just calls for soup in the crock pot, doesn't it? Today it's tortilla soup. Oh, I have so many yummy soups I love to make!

I put my 'menu plan' on our family calendar in pencil at the bottom of each day's square. I really do it for myself -- my shopping, and to know what to set out in the morning, but of course the kids use it to judge exactly how seriously they should snack after school! A few years ago, Riley hadn't really gotten the hang of reading cursive and I was trying a new crock-pot recipe that the book called, not very creatively, "Crock Beef" -- and that was on our menu.

Riley checked the calendar/ menu and asked, "We're seriously having 'Crock Barf' for dinner?" Which was funny enough -- until I made it. It was awful, inedible, and dinner for Duchess that night. It was basically 'Crock Barf'. A night for Crock Pot meals always makes me think of the night I made Crock Barf for dinner.

Besides a bubbling soup in the crock pot, a cold night at home also calls for homemade chocolate chip cookies in the oven, and/ or a fire to roast marshmallows over. Yes, at this house, if a fire gets going, marshmallows get roasted. I LOVE a golden brown, almost liquified roasted marshmallow.

What about you? When the cold wind blows, you just HAVE to have a big pot of .... ? what? on the stove? Or what baking in the oven?

Also, if you have a recipe to share, feel free to ask to be a contributor to this recipe blog, or just email it to me and I'll post it over there, giving you ALL the credit/ glory, of course.


Quiet Christmas Tradition

In backwards order, some answers or discussion: The original singers, yes, The Byrds are who I was looking for. I thought it was the Mamas and the Papas, though I thought Roxanne's guess of Peter, Paul, and Mary was a good one, too. And, yes, Susan, the lyrics came from the book of Ecclesiastes, so I guess we can credit Solomon with the lyrics for that hit song.

Favorite Christmas song right now? Any of them. I'm just starting to listen to my CD's. I really like this one, because Riley loves it and loves to sing along:

And Stephanie mentioned this perennial favorite at my house. Warning: this will STICK inside your head until you will beg for a lobotomy to have it removed.

And too many boxes of Christmas decorations? I think anything more than 5 is getting over the top. And I've got some culling to do to get to 5 -- or I could always buy bigger boxes, adding the bonus that there would be no possible way I would be able to get them out of the attic.

No one at my house wanted to go to the Christmas parade this year and between homework, meetings, and my own achy foot from PT, it was a good thing no one wanted to go I guess. Riley and I did head downtown to hear a friend sing before the parade was to start. I started feeling guilty that I wasn't forcing this Christmas tradition on my family. Then, when I got down there, I realized what a good thing it would be to not go. To help rationalize, this did occur to me: I hate crowds. Everyone in my family hates crowds. Add to that Abilene's downtown has no place for hobbledy folks like me to park anywhere close, I began to wonder WHY I felt the need to drag my family to the crowded place that would make my foot hurt. At some point, our Christmas tradition has included the parade, and if we continue playing in the band, I'm sure it will again. But for now, our more enjoyable traditions include a viewing of 'Elf' together in our jammies, making toffee and peanut brittle together to give as teacher gifts, buying gifts for our 'Giving Tree' at church. And monkey bread Christmas morning. Those are my favorite Christmas traditions for my family right now. Subject to change!


A Survey/ Quiz

This will be the most random group of questions you will see today, but EASY (one of them, anyway).

a) How many boxes of Christmas decorations/ gear is too much? I'm pretty sure I'm there and need to cull down...

b) Favorite Christmas song today?

c) Does anyone (besides my father who googled it for me) know who sang the song, "Turn, Turn, Turn"? (to everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn turn...)

Just some questions for ya...


Monday, Monday

Can you believe it's December 1 ALREADY? Remember about a month ago when I said you still have 2/12 of the year left? We're down to 1/12, and we all know it is the craziest 1/12 (competing only with May)!

The foot/ankle continues to heal, I continue to need to tell my sad little story while I hobble around. Yesterday I made the mistake of looking at the paperwork that came with my lovely boot. It wasn't a bill, so I don't think I'll owe the full amount, but let me just say that I don't even consider purchasing shoes half as much as this, and, ironically enough, the only shoes I will consider paying 1/4 of the cost of this are my running shoes. I may need to wear this longer than 3 weeks to get my money's worth. I am loving having a warm foot, though, and I'm most thankful I wasn't wearing this thing in August!

As I get the standard, "bless your heart", "how long do you have to wear that thing", responses, I realize the advantage in getting to be far enough along in life to be training to turn 40. I'm not in a hurry. This is where I am right now -- I have a hurt foot. Thankfully, it's not hurt too horribly bad, thankfully it SHOULD heal correctly, and thankfully I'm willing to give it time. This is my time to heal. Of course, it makes me think -- most things do! We are generally so impatient with ourselves and others about time to heal -- be it from physical wounds or emotional wounds. It's hard to be in pain -- we just want to feel better. It's hard to see others in pain -- we just want them to feel better. Again, the advantage in being far enough along on my journey is to know: feeling better doesn't equal total healing. Feeling better means healing has begun, but healing takes time.

If this is your time to heal, be patient with yourself. Take the time necessary. If it is your friend's time to heal, be patient with your friend. Give him/ her time to recover, and see what you can do for your friend while s/he heals.

For me? It's all good. I've got one VERY expensive little shoe to wear to help me heal!
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