Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year, Fresh Start

I love starting a new year. 

I love Mondays. I love blank notebooks, empty calendars blank SD cards. I love fresh starts! 

Maybe it's because I need so many new beginnings to try to finally get it right; I don't know. But I'm thankful for them, nonetheless. 

I don't think I'll bother writing a list of resolutions this year. I'll probably just take a stab at keeping some of the resolutions I've made in the past. I do intend to draw closer to God this year, and to spend more time in His Word. I figure, if I do that, most everything else should fall into place. 

To those of you who have taken the time to read my blog in the past year, thank you! I love you all!

Wishing you many blessings in the New Year!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Messages on the Mirror

Ever looked into the mirror and hated what you saw? I have. Actually, I avoid mirrors. Despise 'em. But mirrors with a message, a really nice message? Yeah, I like those. This one, for example:

I especially love the "I love you Daddy and Mommy" one. I caught my 8-year-old writing that, standing on tip-toe, stretching to reach...putting her heart into it.

Finding scribbled love notes like these first thing in the morning, or last thing at night, or whenever, just kind of feels like a hug. 

Why not give your family a "hug" today? Write a message on the mirror. Maybe they don't like what they usually see there, but they'll love that. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Nativity Story App (Review)

I don't want my kids to spend too much time on their tablets, especially during the Christmas season when they should be spending time making memories together with us and with other family members and friends. But, I don't want to take away all of their tablet fun either, sooo, how about an app that teaches them about the real meaning of Christmas, while entertaining them, too? Yes, please!

The Nativity Story is a digital story book that beautifully tells the story of the first Christmas. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous! The book is laid out as a "pop up" and each page has people, animals, or objects that, when tapped, move, talk, dance, etc. Your child can choose to have the story read to him, or to read it himself. The narrator has a very pleasant voice and the background music is, blessedly, not annoying. 

I enjoyed trying out the app, but the true test came when I handed the iPad to my 5-year-old son, whose attention span can be super short. He loved it! For quite a long time he played with the app, sitting quietly on the couch. 
Ahhhhhh. Quietness. 
Another feature that I loved is that the app includes a tab where you or your child can read the Nativity Story right from the Bible. Once again, beautifully done. 

If you have young children, I highly recommend this wonderful app! 

You can read more about it here:

About The Nativity Story
Where will baby Jesus be born? At the market? At a restaurant? At the inn? Readers of this book app can follow Joseph and Mary on their search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. Along the way they encounter a variety of colourful local people and animals. This is a fun and engaging way to share the original story of Christmas with the young generation and remind them what Christmas is all about.

Great for kids 2-10

Watch a video on The Nativity Story App: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtBhge8DWFA

Why Kids Love This App

  •  It's like a vintage pop-up book, with classic woodcut-style illustrations
  • By tapping and swiping, kids can help Joseph and Mary find a place to stay.
  • Knock on doors... Pull on the rope... Ring the bell... Open windows... Make people talk...
  • Create music! Help a band of angels play their instruments.
  • Lots of characters to get to know: Innkeeper, Merchant, Shepherds, Chef, A Band of Actors, Neighbourhood Children, Mary's Donkey, Farm Animals and of course... Angels!
  • Funny sound effects!

Why Parents & Grandparents Love This App

  • Nostalgia. It feels like a classic pop-up book, bringing back memories for parents and grandparents.
  • Optional Narration: Listen to the old-timey narrator tell the story, or read the story yourself.
  • EXTRA Feature: After the story, explore the original Bible text that tells the Nativity Story.
  • Amazing Visual Quality: Support for retina display

How is This Christmas App Different?

  • Production Values - It is a work of art: a rich visual and sound experience.
  • Interactive - We use the touch technology and animation to engage the reader in the story in an enchanting and educational way.
  • Age approach - The classic Bible story is retold here with an original and creative approach that appeals to young kids as well as adults.
  • Original - The app is designed like a vintage popup book and includes unique features such as interacting with a band of angels and playing instruments like trumpet and harp.

For the iPad ($3.99) The Nativity Story - Popup DELUXE Edition https://itunes.apple.com/app/id579941573
For the iPhone ($1.99)
The Nativity Story - Popup MINI Edition https://itunes.apple.com/app/id681638132

Names, Snowflakes, and Eternal Significance

Last night my family and I attended a memorial service presented by the Hospice House for the families of those who passed away this past year. I wasn't sure how many people would be there, but I figured, for some reason, that it would be a fairly small crowd. I was wrong. Thankfully, we arrived early enough to easily find six chairs together and we waited, listening to an elderly lady (a retired RN, the program said) play Christmas carols on an electric keyboard at the front of the room while the place filled up. While we waited I read the program we had been given at the door, and I scanned the list of names that accompanied it. I found my Pappaw's name: Sam Grant. Such a simple name. Nothing special, at least not to anyone else. No one else in that room knew who Sam Grant was except for my husband and children. The doctor who saw him two or three times in the hospice house didn't really know him. None of the nurses who had so kindly taken care of him were there and, besides, they didn't really know him. I read his name again...thinking of those last moments I sat there by his bed in that hospice room. Memories flooded back, and the tears came. I held them back, mostly, but just barely. I wished that everyone there, that everyone everywhere could know about the man behind that common, nondescript name. That wonderful, giving, sacrificial, hard working, loving man: Sam. One man who touched so many lives, but was so unknown. So unrecognized. And that's how he wanted it.

The service began. Prayers were prayed, songs were sung, and kind, gentle, understanding words were spoken to the grieving families. 

At the front of the room, in the center, was a Christmas tree, unlit and sparsely decorated. Later in the service the Hospice staff gathered around the tree, and the Hospice chaplain explained that staff members would take turns reading the list of names aloud and, that as a name on the list was read, staff members would place an ornament on the tree in memory of that person while others gave an ornament to the families that were present. The reading of the names began and the ornaments, beautiful white snowflakes, were placed on the tree as a corresponding ornament was giving to the  family of the deceased.

It was, of course, very quiet, very solemn. Some were weeping. I looked again at that list. So many names...367...and each one represented a lifetime of love, hopes, dreams, heartbreaks, tears, smiles.... It struck me once again how very short life is. The Bible speaks of it being a vapor, and that is the perfect comparison. A vapor.... 

Out of all of those names I don't think there were any that were any plainer or simpler than "Sam Grant", but there were plenty that were just plain ol' ordinary names. They weren't all eye-catching, or regal, or interesting. But each one of those names represented someone like my Pappaw. Well, maybe they weren't all quite the person he was, because, in my opinion, no one could be. But...maybe they were that and more. And now, they were reduced to names on a list, ornaments on a tree. 

It didn't take long for that tree to be covered with snowflakes. Each one representing far more than just a name. It struck me: even though I didn't know any of them, and even though those people were nothing more to me than names on a piece of paper, they were infinitely important to someone else. To their time. To God. Those snowflake ornaments transformed that tree, one by one. 

As they dimmed the lights and lit the tree, the transformation was complete. It was so beautiful, and it spoke to me; no one is just a name, a nobody. No one is worthless. Every life is beautiful. We all matter.  Each ornament on that tree was symbolic of someone who meant something very special to the people in that room that night. They may not have rocked their world, cured cancer, or brought about world peace, but in their own way they made a difference just by being.

You matter. You are significant. It doesn't matter if you're important or recognized by any group of people. It doesn't matter if you're plain-named, plain living, and ordinary. 

You can make the most of the life you've been given by making a difference for good in the lives of those around you, even if it's by doing the litte things, the simple things. 

They matter. You matter.

It's true; life is short. But it's eternal, too.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Green Bean Casserole That is Actually YUMMY!

I have a confession:

I do not like green bean casserole. I tried it for the first time at a church potluck. It looked delicious and I heaped it onto my plate with high expectations for lots of yummy-ness. Oh. my. word. Was I ever surprised. And honey, it wasn't a good surprise.

The stuff was awful.

I tried other green been casseroles after that but just never liked them. That is, until my daughter tried a recipe that she found on Facebook. (For the record, I am not a fan of Facebook Cookbooking. That's what Pinterest is for. But that doesn't mean that I haven't benefited from it a few times. Ahem.) This recipe isn't your average run-of-the-mill green bean casserole. It is a bubbly, creamy, cheesy, melt-in-your-mouth, glorified green bean casserole!

Okay, so I'm being a little ridiculous and possibly going a tad overboard for just a veggie side dish. But seriously. You have to try it.

This picture isn't real pretty, but it's the picture that was posted with the recipe. Our casserole didn't last long enough to photograph.

I would happily link to whoever posted it originally, but I have no idea where it actually came from.

And without further ado, here's the recipe:

Green Bean casserole.... One bite and you will never go back to the "old way" of making green bean casserole ever again. No "cream of something" soup in this baby.
This recipe is much better than the standard mushroom soup and French fried onion version.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup sour cream
3 (14.5 ounce) cans French style green beans, drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled buttery round crackers
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, and cook for one minute. Stir in the salt, sugar, onion, and sour cream. Add green beans, and stir to coat.
Transfer the mixture to a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Spread shredded cheese over the top. In a small bowl, toss together cracker crumbs and remaining butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden and cheese is bubbly.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wounded by God's People (Book Review)

When I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. I'm so glad I could!
Have you been wounded by God's people? I have, and I know so many others who have, as well. People always hurt other people, but...somehow it's worse when the wounding is done by someone who claims to represent the God of love. 

Anne Graham Lotz does a beautiful job of speaking to the hearts of both the wounded and the wounders. Her retelling of Hagar's story is both relevant and poignant and her sharing of her personal experiences brings it all close to home. This book offers hope and healing and is a must read for anyone who fits the description of the title, Wounded by God's PeopleI'll definitely be loaning out my copy. 

Read on for more info:

Book Description

From bestselling author and daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, Anne Graham-Lotz in her new book,Wounded by God’s People, uses the story of Hagar to help people move past their wounds and into the joy and fellowship of God’s presence.
Tucked into Abraham’s biography is the story of Hagar, a young Egyptian slave with whom Abraham had a son named Ishmael. Hagar stands out because she was wounded—not physically, but in ways that were as emotionally and spiritually painful as any injury to a body would be. Some wounds were provoked by her own behavior, but others were inflicted by those who considered themselves God’s people.
As Hagar’s story unfolds, readers discover that wounded people often become wounders themselves. While Anne identifies with the wounded, the unpleasant reality is that she also identifies with the wounders because she has been one too. She knows from experience that wounding is a cycle that needs to be broken. And, according to Lotz, by God’s grace, it can be.
Many have had similar experiences where they have been wounded. Whatever their hurts may be,Wounded by God’s People will help them begin a healing journey—one that enables them to reclaim the joy of God’s presence and all the blessings God has for them.

I highly recommend this book!  ~Jessica

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I'm Not Fine

Lisa-Jo Baker, the author of this post, says she's over being "fine". Hers is a beautiful post...so sweet, so transparent. I admire her attitude and openness.

I'm not where she is. I may never be.

When someone asks me how I am I usually answer with a smile and the usual, "Fine, thank you."

In my mind, I justify my answer because, really, I guess I am fine...if you compare my problems with those who have it much worse than me. That works, right? That makes it okay to say "I'm fine" when I'm anything but fine, doesn't it?

You've done it. I've done it. We've asked someone how they are, just because that's what we're supposed to do. Sometimes we might really want to hear their answer. And sometimes, we might be dealing with too much ourselves to be able to listen and to care. I get that. But I have to say that there have been very, very few times when someone asked me that over-used question and I knew, felt, that they wanted to know. That they cared. And even in those few instances I couldn't answer honestly. It hurt too much, and it opened me up to rejection. Again.

Sometimes I want to tell them, just tell them, "If you don't want to know, don't ask. I'm tired of being untruthful." But I know they're only doing what I have done over and over.

Sometimes I want to spill. I want to tell them that I'm not okay. That from childhood I have dealt with anxiety and depression and that I despair of ever getting better. I want to tell them to stop judging me just because I might not handle stress as well as they do. I want to warn them to not even think about telling me to "buck up", because that's what I do. I have to in order to simply live through some days. I want to tell them that sometimes I feel like I've been sucked into a black hole from which there is no escape. And God doesn't seem to be there. He doesn't seem to be anywhere. I want to tell them that sometimes I feel like a broken little girl who will forever be looking for acceptance and love, but who will never believe anyone who says they love her, because she can't. I want to tell them about my family, one of the saddest I've ever heard of. I want to tell them how I've been crushed by people who others would call saints. I want to scream that I don't get it...any of it...and that I'm worn out from trying. I want to tell them about the fears that haunt me, especially at night. Fears of failing in every area of my life. Fears that cause my heart to palpitate and bring on something akin to a panic attack. I want to tell them how much I miss the two dearest people on earth to me. How I weep for them when no one sees, and how I hurt because I know that so few mourn their deaths with me. I want to tell them not to believe the bright smile I wear, because it's only a mask that hides the ugly mess I really am. I want to tell them how I despise myself. I want to tell them that I know I have it better than most...I do...but that doesn't take away the pain. And it doesn't make me ungrateful at all. In fact, it probably makes me more so, because I know how little I deserve all with which I have been blessed.

I want to tell them all these things, but I can't. Because they would be startled, embarrassed, shocked, angry and disgusted. They might tell me that I'm being over-dramatic. That I'm feeling sorry for myself. And, if they did, I would die inside...all over again.

It's a whole lot simpler to just say, "I'm fine."

But, I'm not fine. And I'm too scared to say so.

Please think of this when you ask someone how they're feeling. And, to those of you who have chalked this post up to one big pity party, I guess there's nothing I can say to change your opinion. But I ask that you think about your judgments until you've walked where I have walked. And I ask you to take the time, at least once, to listen to the answer to your question and to hear, really hear, what that person is not saying.

I'm reaching...grasping...for hope. I'm praying that God can help me not necessarily to be "fine", but to just get better. To get real.

There are a lot of people who need to do that, too. You're not fine. I won't offer you advice that I'm not even following, but I do want you to know that you're not alone. More of us are wearing masks than you could imagine.

God sees behind the mask. Sometimes that terrifies me. Mostly, it comforts me, because He's the only one Who can help me with what He finds there. He can help you, too.

I still believe that, someday, I can be healed and used of God to help others who wear the mask of "fine".


To a certain person who has been faithful to ask me how I am, to want to know, and to persist until she gets the answer, thank you. You know who you are.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lazy Discipline

My son knows how to push my buttons. He really does. 

I yell his middle name for effect, and then proceed with my tirade. "Go to your room. Now! Do not pass "Go", do not collect any money, and do not come out until you're ready to straighten up. Or until you turn 21. Whichever comes first." 

(To read the rest of this post, please visit Cherish the Call.)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Clean-up, Please!

Yes, we watched the Super Bowl, but we watched very few commercials. I was the only one who remained in the room at halftime and I busied myself with something else while I waited for it to be over. I didn't see all the garbage that was broadcasted, but I saw enough, and heard enough, to make me a very unhappy mama. 

I'm the type of person who would rather fight for something good, like football, than give it up to those who trash it. However, I won't do it at the expense of the innocence of my children. Skipping commercials and the raunchy halftime show works, but I think we can take it further. At the very least, we can email the offending retailers and let them know they won't have our business.

Another unhappy mama says it far better than I, so please read her post...and fight hard for the innocence of our little ones!

Lisa-Jo Baker: When Mama Ain't Happy