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Monday, December 27, 2010

Joy and Peace

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Joy and Peace are popular Christmas words.  “Peace on earth” spoken by the angels at Jesus’ birth usually gets some extra attention during this season.  We see "Joy" on cards and candy and decorations.  A few years ago I decided that I wanted to know what these words really mean.  This is what I discovered and I can’t imagine a better Christmas message.

Peace- Eirene in Greek
Peace, rest; in contrast with strife; denoting the absence or end of strife.  It denotes a state of untroubled, undisturbed, well-being.  It may also be when contrasted with strife, such a state of peace is the object of divine promise and is brought about by God’s mercy, granting deliverance and freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as a result of sin.

Joy- from Charis in Greek
Joy, favor, acceptance, grace; a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks gratitude, grace.  A favor done without expectation of return; absolute freeness of the loving-kindness of God to men, finding its only motive in the bounty and free-heartedness of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.
From The Complete Word Study Dictionary New Testament by Spiros Zodhiates

Peace isn’t just a pat answer from a beauty pageant about the absence of strife and fighting in the world.  Joy isn’t just the happy dance when things go our way. These words are wholeness that starts on the inside as we accept God’s Promise and radiates outward as we walk with Him.  They are the description of a life facing each day, rest, trial, work, and fun with the certainty of God’s benevolent, free-hearted, and loving Presence.

Grace and Peace to you in 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cookie Exchange

On Wednesday mornings I teach a Bible Study.  I love doing this, these women mean…..well, I can’t think of anything that doesn’t sound cliché (like “the world to me”).  Let's just say I am very attached to these women and our time together.  The last year and a half has been special to us, we’ve grown and changed and persevered and learned so much together.  Over the years we’ve studied Beth Moore and many other Bible Study gurus together.  We’ve studied Philippians and Hosea and Galatians and 1 and 2 Peter and Proverbs just to mention a few…..we just finished 1 Samuel.  We study and we share and we question and we comfort and visit and eat and pray.  The key word for this group is the “together” part. 

I’m a big believer in community – I think it's part of God’s design for us, and this group practices community very well.  They know one another and share life together. 

For our second year in a row we’ve celebrated Christmas by having a Cookie Exchange.  We each make a batch of our favorites.  Actually many of us try something new, this is a very forgiving  clan and a great place to test new recipes.  We all bring our recipes, copy them while we eat and then take home a few of everyone’s cookies and all the recipes.  It’s fun.  The goal is to have a holiday cookie assortment to use in whatever entertaining commitments we have, but honestly most of the cookies barely make it to the parking lot. 

I have a new cake plate that I really like, so as soon as I got home I set the cookies that were left from the trip to the parking lot on top and took some pictures.  I really wanted to take a picture of this cake plate upside down, because it's also a chip and dipper.  But I'm seriously afraid that's the kind of thing that makes people roll their eyes and vow never to come back to your blog I restrained.  But it's really cute, and was only 10 bucks.

I kinda feel like this is a class picture, it' makes me smile because each of these cookies represent a dear one.  I may be the sappiest Bible Study teacher in the world, but I'm OK with that.  I need this time each week, we need each other.

"Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
Give preference to one another in honor;
Not lagging behind in diligence,
Fervent in spirit,
Serving the Lord." 

Romans 12:10-11

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Dawn

The last two weekends have been crazy busy.   I’m sure most of you are saying “Amen, Sister.”  My husband and I have been playing divide and conquer to tackle the activities and commitments.  So while he was off with our son on Saturday, the girls and I had some time just us.  While we were driving to Subway – lunch of choice with my girls, but always vetoed when the boys are with us; my 10 year old asked me to tell her my favorite Christmas carol.  I told her that I love Silent Night.  It’s my favorite for lots of reasons.  Today I'll share one of them. 

A couple of years ago, Todd bought me the Josh Groban Christmas CD.  Although I’ve heard and sung Silent Night, all the verses, many times, Mr. Josh sings one verse in particular in a unique way that made me hear it for the first time.   
“Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace – he sings it, “Daaahhhhhhn of grace”
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth "
So, I love that verse…….and I began to tell my unusually curious daughter about it.  I got to “dawn of redeeming grace” and couldn’t talk anymore, the beautiful pain of His life just caught in my throat and I couldn’t get any words to go past it.   After I recovered a bit, swallowed hard and wiped my eyes, we talked about dawn. 

Side note - With dawn on my mind I took these pictures this morning.  One is from my back door, the other is what our tree looks like as I round the corner to my kids' bedrooms to wake them up in the morning.

Dawn is the beginning.  In real life I’m not so much a fan (because it means getting up very early), but in the world of symbolism I’m all over it.  I love the potential and joy all wrapped up in the beginning of something.  Babies are the best at illustrating dawn and Jesus is no exception.  I told my girl about my first Christmas as a mother and how different and meaningful it was to experience that season from Mary’s perspective.  To realize what Jesus gave up to become a baby and eventually a man was powerful then and still is.  Redeeming Grace is God’s perspective and His number one goal for mankind.  To be redeemed means that I am bought back from something and grace means I didn’t deserve or earn such privilege.  Christmas is about God's hope that all people will be returned back to Him in an every day, close-up, REAL relationship. 

That’s why “dawn of redeeming grace” gets me so….I am overcome with cheek-squishing, cooing Christmas baby love only to be followed so quickly with gut-wrenching, gratitude for the grown-up, tender, self-sacrificing Easter love man He became.   And all of it makes me love Him more.  He is more than Christmas, He is life.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
John 1:4 NIV

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Almond Poppyseed Minis

This is a favorite recipe, especially at  Christmas.  I got it from Marsha Cook one year when she and her husband Russell taught a class for Deacons and their wives at our church in Oklahoma City.  Our deacons must've decided to invite the pastor and his wife, cause we were there!  Marsha had a wonderful pink book she taught from and in it were some very special recipes.  I still treasure my pink book.  Now probably 10 years later, Marsha and I live a few miles apart, go to church together, and minister in the same town.  

I love this bread recipe so much.  You could easily make it a lemon poppyseed bread by exchanging the almond extract for lemon extract, but I don't know why anyone would ever want to eliminate almond from anything - it's my favorite flavor - ever. 

A couple of Christmases ago I found this wonderful holly sprinkle mix that makes these little cakey breads perfection.  I make them in a mini loaf pan which to this day is my favorite wedding gift.  I can get 7 which is the only "urgh-ish" part of the recipe, but I can't bring myself to fill them more sparingly to stretch the batter to partly fill all 8.  I like them round and white on top.

These little loaves are wonderful gifts wrapped in cellophane and tied up with a bow and gift tag and they freeze beautifully.

Almond Poppyseed Bread
Marsha Cook

Mix all ingredients with mixer on medium speed until moistened well:
·         3 cups flour
·         2 ¼ cups sugar
·         1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
·         1 ½ teaspoons salt
·         1 Tablespoon (little less) poppy seeds
·         1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
·         1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
·         3 eggs
·         1 ½ cup milk
·         1 ¼ cup oil
Pour into 2 bread loaf pans sprayed with baking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. My mini-loaf pan takes 32 minutes.  Remove from oven and pour glaze over bread while it’s still in the pan.  Let set a few minutes, run a knife around the edges and turn out onto waxed paper to cool.  When I make the mini loaves, I put all 7 out on waxed paper first and then glaze.

·         2 cups powdered sugar (I shake mine through a mesh strainer)
·         1/3 cup milk (my preference) or orange juice (Marsha's original recipe)
·         1 teaspoon almond extract (you may add some vanilla too)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


This is another of my Christmas treasures.  It's a photograph of my Grandmother and her white Christmas tree.  Although she smiled and laughed often, she did not like having her picture taken and usually looked very serious in photos.  We think that my aunt took this picture and that perhaps Grandmother thought it was just of the tree not realizing she was the real target.  She looks like herself in this picture, relaxed and content.  It must be a Saturday morning because her hair looks great - she'd probably been to the beauty shop on Friday.

My husband noticed this picture the other night and commented on the amount of presents under her tree.  She loved Christmas and made it very special.  I have lots of memories of knee deep wrapping paper chaos in that room.  She and my Pappy were farmers and lived just outside of our hometown.  We loved visiting the farm, but loved visiting them more.  She loved bright colors, like purple and turquoise blue and had a  flamboyant classy streak as evidenced by the peacocks that roamed her farm.  She also was a good ole' gal who could help feed cattle or pull fence if she had to.  She loved God and loved people and they loved her back.  She wasn't perfect, but she was so very special to us.  When she died we were astonished at the number of people we (her family) didn't know who came to the funeral, she served many anonymously.  I'll have to save those stories for another day.

My Grandmother died on my Mother's birthday my junior year at college.  One of my treasures is a green envelope that holds the letters she wrote to me those three years I was away.  This envelope has a particular place in my closet and they are beyond dear.

They are all very brief, one says,
OK, Sweetie,
I love you,

This is my favorite.....

It says,
"The greatest notion I can give you is to make the most of the hours you live.  God is faithful and to be trusted.  He provides every wonderful blessing.  My dear one, stand on your tiptoes eagerly awaiting His next surprising blessing."

She made the most of the hours she lived and she trusted God, not perfectly but consistently throughout prosperity and loss.  I think of her everytime I see a stalk of wheat or a white Christmas tree or a peacock.  Her legacy strengthens my faith and the faith of the generations to follow us both....a blessed heritage indeed.

"You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name." 
Psalm 61:5

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Fudge

I put this picture (titled "Happy Trash") on facebook yesterday and received some requests for the recipe.  My Christmas Fudge recipe came out of Taste of Home magazine many years ago......I LOVE that magazine!  It's not what I would call a traditional fudge recipe, but it's easy (just melt and set) and it's curious (delicious but no one really knows why).  It is my middle girlie's favorite Christmas treat.  One year when she was very young (she's 10  now), she snuck the tin out of the refrigerator and took it to her bedroom. This is quite a feat because the recipe makes 4 1/2 pounds of fudge.  I found it later in her closet. She didn't eat all of it, but plenty! 

It still makes me so happy to give her the first little taste of the year.  Let me know what you think if you try it!

Four Chip Fudge
Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray with Pam. 
Put together in a medium saucepan:
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
1 can Eagle Brand milk
3 Tablespoons milk
1 package semisweet chocolate chips
1 package milk chocolate chips
1 package peanut butter chips
Stir this yumminess together and melt over medium heat just until melted and smooth.

Now remove from heat and add:
1 cup (not a whole bag) of butterscotch chips and stir until melted
1 small jar marshmallow creme
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Stir all until melted in and smooth with no marshmallow streaks.  Pour into prepared pan, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours until you can cut it into 1 inch square pieces.  Store in fridge.

Merry Christmas!