Tis the season of holiday parties and truly fabulous food! We drool in anticipation with each invitation, but we also start to wonder what we’ll look like on the other side of the New Year. Here are three tips for a healthier holiday party season.
- Don’t clean your plate
This goes against everything your parents taught you, but when it comes to rich party foods, some of them aren’t worth the calories. How can you tell which delights to make room for and which to hide under a napkin? You taste them. Select small amounts of what you think you’ll like and try them. If you don’t like something, don’t eat it. If you like everything, focus on your favorites. Most people are concerned with their own food, not yours, and won’t notice if a few rejects are growing cold on the side of your plate. Eat slowly and savor the bounty spread before you.
- BYOV: Bring Your Own Veggies
If you’re asked to bring a dish to a party, bring along a veggie that you love. That way you know you’ll have something healthy to fill your plate and balance out the superrich foods. Know your fellow partiers, though. One year I brought a tray of raw vegetables to a Superb Bowl party and I was the only one who touched it. The next year I brought Pumpkin Apple Dip (recipe below) and after assuring a few skeptics that pumpkin is not only edible, it’s delicious; the dip disappeared by the fourth quarter.
- Keep exercising
Moving your body burns calories, but it also helps your body process that delicious party food more efficiently. A few years ago scientists did a study on overeating. They had two groups overeat to simulate the holiday season; one group exercised and one group did not. Even though weight fluctuations were similar for both groups, the exercisers showed better blood sugar control and metabolism than the couch potatoes. (https://sunnysleevez.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/good-news-for-gluttons-read-this-before-you-start-the-season-of-stuffing/)
People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:29 (NIV)
Pumpkin Apple Dip Recipe
3/4 cup (6 oz) 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
2 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Beat cream cheese and brown sugar with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin, maple syrup, and cinnamon and blend until smooth. Serve with apple slices.
Katie Robles is living proof that women who love to bake and hate to sweat can lose weight and get healthy. She lost fifty pounds in four years by changing her habits, one small step at a time. She started writing Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating after she asked herself the question “Why can’t weight loss be fun?” She writes the weekly Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating blog at www.sexsoupandtwofistedeating.com and is the author of Sex, Soup, and Two Fisted Eating: Hilarious Weight Loss for Wives (House of Bread, 2016).
I don’t know about you, but I love to come home. I enjoy traveling, going out with friends, and running errands, but I always love coming home. I might be gone for a week or an hour, but as soon as I walk in the door, I feel relief. I’m where I belong. I love coming home, and I love being home.
Home is familiar. Comfortable. Safe.
It wasn’t always that way. I was a child of divorce, remarriage, and re-divorce. My home didn’t always feel comfortable or safe, and instead of looking forward to coming home, I desperately wanted to leave.
When I started a family and created my own home, I tried to love it, but I was in a bad marriage that eventually ended in divorce. The home my children knew had split and become two.
I wondered if they felt familiar, comfortable, and safe in both. Or did they feel transient, burdened, and always longing for the other home?
Sometimes, as much as I love my home, I long for my other one. I’m comfortable here. It’s familiar. It’s what I’ve made it. And it is safe now because I’ve made it to be. But sometimes, I feel an ache for a place I think I remember but I’ve never been to. A place I’ve only been told about but still feels like mine. A place where, when I look to the sky, I can practically envision. It feels more like home than the one I’ve decorated and furnished.
I wonder what it felt like to be God in the form of a baby. To leave the home that was familiar, comfortable, and safe and to suddenly awaken in a different world, unable to tell anyone who you are or why you’re there. To be fully God, yet fully dependent on the people you created?
In a world of unrest, did He feel safe? In a turbulent time, when his parents took him and fled for their lives, did he wish he had four walls and three squares? Did He long for one home while He was living in the other?
I wonder how much he understood, being a baby and all. Yes, He was fully God, but He was also fully baby, having to rely on his parents to keep him safe.
Remember when Mary and Joseph lost their son? He was twelve. Old enough to be responsible for getting himself to the bus on time to leave Jerusalem. When his parents realized he missed the caravan back to Nazareth, they had to backtrack—a day’s journey (Did you ever wonder how they could have gone a full day before they realized he was gone? If you ever lived with a twelve-year old boy, you’d get it).
They found him in the temple. His mother made an attempt at instilling Jewish guilt by asking him how he could treat them this way. He replied, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
He was Homesick.
And what about all those times during His ministry when He went off to pray by Himself? Did He long for Home then? Did He sit on a mountaintop, or in a rowboat on the middle of a still lake and look up to the sky, His other home? Unlike me, He knew exactly what that other Home looked like. All the more reason to be Homesick.
He was rejected in his own hometown, Nazareth. Yet, when He died, the thief on the cross next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Don’t forget me when you get Home.
To which our Savior—that grown up baby who left His Heavenly Home to live in an earthly one—replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.”
That’s where our Home truly is. Sometimes we visit a place we call paradise on earth. Maybe it’s someplace tropical—one of those resorts with the grass huts on top of crystal clear turquoise water.
It seems like paradise, but the mosquitoes are the size of dragonflies and we’re worried we might get Typhoid Fever, or we had a bad meal that didn’t agree with us (I’m only speculating, as this is only a fantasy of mine. The mosquitoes and bad meals make the fact that I’m missing out more bearable).
As wonderful as the vacation was, we can’t wait to get home.
And as much as I love the home I have here, the one that is comfortable, familiar, and safe, the one that is waiting for me is all of that and more. It’s paradise! And we all long for paradise.
That’s why I sometimes feel homesick for the place I’ve never been to but feel like I was.
But maybe I have. That’s why I believe that when I finally go to my other Home, my first one, the one that houses God’s workshop where he fashioned me—that I’ll have a grass hut in water the color and depth of nothing I’ve ever seen on earth.
Ah, paradise! That’s Home.
Blessed Christmas. May the peace that comes from Your Heavenly Home be evident in your earthly one.
Mary Dolan Flaherty is a quirky gal who loves to encourage people and make them laugh. She writes and speaks with self-deprecating humor and transparency, saying what most people think but won’t admit. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, whom she affectionately calls Hubbles, and has two grown children and two grand-dogs. Mary enjoys hiking, theatre, music, gardening, and traveling and can be found blogging at SonRiseInsights.blogspot.com
Now that the birth of the savior
is born to us on earth,
the fiery stars gather with joy
to celebrate his birth.
The silver stars sparkle beneath
the midnight velvet sky.
“Rejoice – rejoice.”
They shout and sing
and gleam as they sing.
And while the silent earth now sleeps
with thousands of bright eyes
they watch the shepherds and wise men
below the starry skies
as the bright Star of Bethlehem leads
to the newborn king.
“Rejoice – rejoice.”
They shout and sing
with flashes as they sing.
When wise men enter the stable
with joy – they bow with praise,
with gifts of gold at the manger
beside him where he lays
with lemony incense they give
to Christ – the newborn king.
“Rejoice – rejoice.”
They shout and sing
and glisten as they sing.
The fiery red and golden stars
sparkle throughout the night.
The sky-blue and the green stars glow
with rays and beams so bright
as they reflect his glory that
shines from the newborn king.
“Rejoice – rejoice.”
They shout and sing,
and dazzle as they sing.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. Luke 2:7
Rejetta Morse enjoys writing poetry so she can write about God and how He speaks through nature. Writing poetry is a new found purpose and hobby she discovered over recent years which brings her joy, peace, and encouragement. She also enjoys reading poetry and is working to learn more about the craft of poetry. She spends her free time singing with her church choir and listening to gospel music, watching biographical movies, and encouraging other people. She is a regular contributor to RUBY magazine.
“The Christmas Blessing”
by Sharmelle Olson
As you get into the spirit of Christmas
what is it that you see off in a distance?
You may be able to praise God and witness
the good and magnificent silence.
As we give our gifts here at Christmas time
it is the time to think of giving not receiving,
Yes, it’s a time to receive gift too but give time
to the Lord at the same time you are receiving.
The side of giving gifts is so miraculous
with the good and surprising facial expressions
on the faces of your family members,
which are gracious
and leave you with a wonderful impression.
Sharmelle Olson is a graphic artist and designer, photographer and poet. She loves to share her poems in the RUBY magazine. Shar is also an administrator for RUBY community ministry and enjoys helping out around the community and making new friends there. She has been writing poetry and taking photographs since elementary school, and started doing graphic art and design work in the early 2000s. Shar has four children, two of whom are twins. Her first daughter is in her 20s, her son is 14, and her twin daughters will be 13 soon.
Santa, sleighs and colors bright,
illuminate the dark of night,
but do not glorify the plight
of the baby in the shadows.
Oh, the glitter- how it shines!
From sparkling gifts and glittered twine,
distracting us from the Divine
the toddler in the shadows.
Songs are sung of snowman’s tales
of reindeer’s nose and Grinchy fails,
but no one hears His love prevails
from the child within the shadows.
Fam’lies gathered, parties planned
for feast of food and music grand
how can we see the pleading hand
of the child within the shadows?
Did we forget what God did lose?
He spent His Son to pay our dues
and sent His Son as a babe imbued
within a manger’s shadows.
The child, when grown to man will give
His life for us so we may live
When we believe and then forgive
blessed by the Man in shadow.
The lights, the gifts lose their array
inane songs fade when He comes our way
and we can celebrate the day
He brought us from the shadows!
Beth Brubaker, Assistant Editor of RUBY magazine,is a humorist poet and songwriter, and her day jobs include homemaking, writing, and paper and fabric arts. Beth’s passion is the written word, and is developing ways of sharing her brand of humor with the world through poems, songs and stories. Don’t miss Beth’s columns and puzzles in every issue of Ruby for Women! You can read Beth’s posts on her blog Footprints in the Mud at http://footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com or email her at email@example.com.
David, I know you are watching from Heaven. Please be with me during my surgery and help me not to be scared.
My half-opened eyes nervously squinted back in the mirror. That morning in the pre-dawn chill of my bathroom I felt an intense desire to talk with my late husband.
Perhaps God would let David hold my hand from afar.
During the past four weeks I had distracted myself with decorating the house for the holidays. I knew I would be off my feet for six weeks after my ankle operation. I needed to be organized.
Presents were purchased and wrapped. The outside lights strung. Multiple Santa figurines guarded the family room and a stately seven-foot spruce tree stood at attention in a nearby corner ready for tinsel and fancy balls.
When David and I married, the first ornament we put on our tree was his childhood slate-blue ball.
On one side, the large orb was inscribed with his name and the year of his birth in white flocking—David 1948.
Our children called it ‘Dad’s ball,’ and it has forever maintained its premier status.
Peeling back the yellowed tissue paper, I had plucked the fragile ball from its faded cardboard box.
I searched for a sturdy branch to support the weight of the ornament. I secured the metal clasp to the limb and stepped back to admire my work.
The familiar flocking of his name and year of birth faced towards the inside of the tree.
Worried if I removed the ball to switch it I might drop it in my haste, I left it in place and vowed to come back to fix it later.
Showered and dressed, I stumbled downstairs for a quick cup of coffee.
Oh darn, I forgot to check the tree’s water level last night!
How I hated to crawl on my stomach under the branches like a military soldier scooting under a line of barbed wire. But I filled the pitcher in resignation and headed into the family room.
When I turned on the wall switch to tend to my last Yuletide chore, the tiny colored lights on the tree flickered and I noticed the blue ornament facing me with its white lettering, David 1948.
You ARE here!
“Thank you God.”
I flicked off the switch and grabbed my purse. My ride was waiting to take me to the hospital.
Kim Kluxen Meredith is an award winning published author. Her book “Listen for the Whispers: Coping with Grief and Learning to Live Again” provides a platform for her national / international inspirational speaking engagements. More information about her message of hope and resilience can be found on her author web page at www.kimkluxenmeredith.com
I don’t have to deal with the loonies out there trying to find a bargain.
Or so I thought.
For example, I went to a bulk store doing my regular ‘chest freezer shopping’ and saw people fighting over the last of the giant fluffy stuffed animals left on display. Apparently giant stuffed fuchsia unicorns are more rare than the actual beasts, and these people were almost at fisticuffs over it. A well-dressed lady in a fur coat won the battle, leaving unconscious bodies in her wake as she continued shopping.
It was a stuffed animal, people. Seriously? Fight over something significant, like a foot massager or chocolates for heaven’s sake! Oh wait- someone beat you to the punch. Medic on aisle three and seven please!
What is it about Christmas that turns people into frenzied maniacs? Even the Tasmanian Devil would be hard pressed to come out alive with a gift at this rate! As for me, all I wanted was a two-hundred pound pack of chicken breasts and a few gallons of milk. Oh, and those rotisserie chickens. Gotta get me at least one of those suckers.
I head for the roasted chicken section, only to find it was cleaned out 2.3 seconds before I arrived. The next batch would be ready in six hours. That’s okay, I can wait. It would take me that long to get through the checkout anyway. So I do some more shopping while I wait. I consider getting a pallet truck instead of a cart when I hear the timer for the chicken go off, and I dash for the roasted chicken section once more – as does everyone else in the store.
I crash into the sausage display as I try to stop the momentum of my overladen cart, just as the guy starts putting the chickens on the shelves. People were taking them before the containers hit the sheet metal, but I waited my turn, since they were ahead of me.
Oh no she didn’t!
Have you ever daydreamed about what you’d like to have done instead of what you did? My imagination took over….
The fancy lady’s smile faded as sparks emanated from my very being. How dare she snatch that chicken from me? She won that bout over the unicorn, but I will not be thwarted from my rotisserie chicken!
With a primal yell, I body slam the well-dressed lady like a rampaging Pokemon, and snatch the precious chicken from her hands before the momentum throws her back about three-hundred feet.
Sometimes it pays to be a big gal and understand the laws of physics.
I was surprised by cheers behind me and turn to see the rivals of this well- dressed lady applauding my reaction to her greediness. Apparently she had the last of everything in her cart, and fought everyone and their reindeer to get it. At first I was elated. I was a hero! I stood up to a shopping bully and won!
Or did I?
No, I didn’t – but it was nice thinking about it as she walked off with my chicken in hand. I believe God would’ve frowned on the body-slamming, Pokemon thing though.
Christmas Madness had almost gotten the better of me. And there wasn’t even a gift involved! I just wanted homemade chicken salad for lunch.
Lucky for me the guy saw what happened and told me more was coming in a few minutes. He brought out the chickens and let me pick the one I wanted before anyone else since I was the first in line at that point. All done without carnage and skid marks down the aisle from a greedy woman’s fur coat.
It’s so easy to forget why we celebrate Christmas when advertisers make everything sound so awesome. We want to make others happy, but when we’re willing to body-slam a stranger three hundred feet down the aisle to get it- well, let’s just say that isn’t the spirit of the season God intended.
Just remember when making your purchases, you’ll find a lot of Christmas nuts – but please don’t become one – just deal with the ones in the fancy boxes covered in chocolate!
With the holidays in gear, it seems everyone is traveling to visit loved ones. For most of us, that means either staying with family or having family stay with us. For me, my in-laws come in from out of town and stay with us for the week of Christmas. Having a big family of our own, my husband and I take extra measures to make sure everyone is comfortable while there are an extra two people around. With kids in the house, it sometimes gets a little hectic, so we try to make sure my husband’s parents are as comfortable as possible. Here are a few of my tips to make sure your guests feel at home.
Clean, clean, clean
While some of you might be thinking this is an obvious tip, I still think it is super important to stress! I usually keep my bathrooms, guest room, and kitchen pretty clean and organized, but it is good to get a deep clean before overnight guests arrive. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies of your home including under the bed, behind the toilet, and deep in the tile grout. You’ll thank yourself when your guests feel welcome in your clean home. If you don’t have time for this, I would suggest hiring a one time cleaning service. I’ve done this before and my kitchen was the cleanest it’s ever been!
We all know that it’s hard to get a good night’s rest when we’re away from home and our own beds, but there are ways to make your guests feel a little more comfortable in a guest room. Obviously keeping clean fresh bedding for your guests is a must, but I also try to accommodate to their sleeping needs. For example, my father-in-law likes to sleep with a more firm pillow, so I make sure he has a few different pillows to choose from, so he isn’t stuck with one that’s too soft.
Also, I suggest buying a good mattress in your guest room that you can see yourself sleeping on. Chances are if you won’t sleep on it, your guest won’t enjoy it either. There are many great mattresses stores to choose from, but it’s always easy to buy from an online mattress retailer like Leesa Mattress.
My next tip would be to make sure that there is enough food in your home. For this one I also like to do my research, especially if your guest is staying for more than one night. What type of coffee do they drink? Do they have any allergies? Are they diabetic and need certain snacks in the house? It’s always nice to call ahead and ask them if there is anything specific food wise they would like. If they are too polite to mention anything, call a family member of theirs to see if they have any suggestions for things they would like.
Expect the Unexpected
Make sure to always be ready for anything! Have extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc. on hand! You never know what your guest is going to need, so be prepared to have extra. Nothing is worse than spending your Christmas Eve in the Rite Aid checkout line because someone forgot a toiletry! I always think it’s a good idea to have the extra travel size bottles on hand. That way you’re not buying full sized bottles for a few nights visit.
Going the extra mile will really show your guests you care. Whenever I do small gestures like these when my in-laws stay, they are extremely grateful. In doing this it will make your overnight visits run a little more smoothly with extra people in the house, too.
What are some ways you help make your guests feel welcome during holiday stays?
It’s that time of year – too many friends and family members want to come over and visit during the Christmas holidays, but you just don’t have the time to host that many dinners! But what can you do to stem the chaos, yet enjoy spending time with everyone?
Plan a Christmas Open House!
What exactly is a Christmas Open House, you ask? It may sound like you’re selling your home (some people have actually asked me this when I’ve invited them), but instead you’re hosting an all-day event where people can come visit when they want to and stay as long as they wish.
No big dinner parties, no head counts, no fancy tableware that has to be hand-washed every time you use it, no worries about Auntie Gertrude sitting next to someone she doesn’t like…it’s a casual, relaxing visit when everyone – family, friends, and neighbors can come to see you, as well as other friends and family that haven’t seen each other since last Christmas.
The best part is that people can come and go when they please, so they don’t feel guilty if they can only visit for a short time, or feel like they’re wearing out their welcome if they want to stay longer.
You plan a day (or two) with a certain range of hours for people to come visit. It can be all day, from lunch until dinner, mid-afternoon until late evening… whatever hours you’re most comfortable having company. Send out invitations at least two weeks in advance to give people time enough to plan on coming.
No R.S.V.P. is necessary!
Here’s how it works:
Serve simple foods buffet style. This allows you to enjoy your guests and not be in the kitchen all day long. Place tables in a way to allow flow-through for both those getting food, and those moving back into the main rooms to sit with their goodies. And don’t forget extra benches and chairs for people to sit!
You don’t need to provide enough seats for your entire guest list, because people will be moving in and out of your home throughout the established times. But make sure you have enough for at least one-third of the people you’re expecting.
If you’re doing a breakfast/brunch style Open House, there are many egg dishes that can be put into crock pots the night before or pre-prepped ready-to-bake pans of quiche or cinnamon buns (that you made ahead of time) that can be tucked into the oven as the breakfast trays empty. Don’t forget breakfast meats can also be piled into aluminum pans and kept warm in the oven!
Trays filled with deli meats and cheeses, cheese and sausages (or pepperoni), vegetables as well as rolls, crackers and dips do well for those coming in for a meal, or just to graze. Hot foods like sliced roast beef or turkey for sandwiches can be kept at safe food temperatures in crock pots, as can meatballs or soups.
Soups are especially popular when it’s cold out, and you don’t even need special dishes – just use hot/cold cups (like the ones you use for coffee) instead of bowls! This keeps the serving sizes down (sometimes people want to try more than one soup if you have a variety), and keep things neater – it’s a lot harder to spill soup in a tall cup than in a flimsy Styrofoam bowl!
Drinks can be as simple as buying soda, but if you want to have healthier choices, you can home-brew iced tea, have a variety of hot teas, coffees, and cocoas available (if you own a Keurig machine), offer juices, lemonade, or waters laced with freshly sliced fruit – anything that suits your fancy!
(Just remember the fruit waters will only last until the end of the day.)
Snacks can be candy and nuts, but you can also include chips and pretzels – they go with everything!
Desserts can be anything from cakes, pies, cookies, or puddings. Puddings can also be carried in a cup instead of a bowl, and if you want pie or cake a la mode, add the pie/cake to a cup, and top with a small scoop of ice cream. You can also have bowls of holiday candies or nuts out for people to nibble on as they mingle.
Plan enough food for about three-quarters of the guests you invite, because not everyone will be able to come.
As for how much food- figure a half-pound of food per person for main dishes (or two cups of soup per person) and one quarter-pound of food per person for side dishes. (*see below this first list for breakfast foods).
So if you’ve invited fifty people: expect about thirty-eight.
- 1 twelve quart pot of soup (or two six to eight quart pots of two different kinds of soup) – If you’re not including soup, double the meat and cheeses (listed below).
- At least ten pounds of lunch meats or hot foods (double these amounts if not having soup.) For lunch meats-two and-a-half pounds each of three different kinds of meats, and one and-a-half pounds of each kind of cheeses.
- For hot foods- at least three and-a-half pounds of two kinds of meats, one and-a-half pounds of two kinds of cheeses.
- Rolls/breads- 2x people expected (4x slices of bread)
- One cheese tray
- One veggie tray
- One condiment tray (for the sandwiches, if having deli meats.) Condiment trays usually consist of lettuce, onion, tomatoes, and pickles.
- One cookie tray
- Two cups of dip
- One box mixed party crackers (or four sleeves of other kinds of crackers)
- At least three pies/cakes (cut into 12 or more pieces)
- One large bottle each of mayonnaise, mustard, or preferred sandwich spreads
- 1 pound butter, room temperature
- Salt and pepper shakers
- Two to three quarts of ice cream (optional)
- Several bags of candies, nuts and/or trail mix
- At least three bags of chips/pretzels
- Plates, cups, and plastic utensils (3x the amount of guests expected)
- Napkins (4x the amount of guests expected)
- Ice- at least twenty to thirty pounds for drinking, twice that if using a cooler. Don’t use cooler ice for drinks!)
- Clean rags (for spills and drips)
For a breakfast / brunch open house:
- *Two eggs per person
- Three strips of bacon
- Two breakfast sausage links or patties
- (The three items listed above are plenty if you’re serving eggs as a quiche.)
- Assorted veggies for the eggs (spinach, green peppers, and tomato are popular)
- Two to three bags of shredded cheddar or cheddar blended cheeses
- (This breakfast list can be substituted for the soup in the above list)
- One small bag per five people for Hash browns or tater tots
Set up your tables so the plates and utensils are near the sandwich foods, the cups and spoons are near the soups, and more cups with stirrers by the beverages. Keep the hot foods away from the cold foods.
From one end of the tables to the other:
- Rolls / breads
- Hot foods
- Condiment tray
- Cold foods
- Salt and pepper
- Chips / snacks (not nuts and candies)
- Cheese and veggie trays
- Crackers and dip,
- Desserts (except ice cream)
- Cookie tray
Tips and tricks:
Make dips a day ahead so they have time to thicken and ‘cure’ (so the flavors blend in well).
If you’re making your own trays, breakfast casseroles, and drinks, make them a day ahead of time, cover with plastic wrap or foil, and refrigerate.
Use aluminum pans instead of glassware for safe transfer from fridge to oven (some glassware will shatter from the extreme temperature change) and for easy clean up.
If you’re making fruit infused waters, make them two hours before the Open House and refrigerate.
To make tea concentrates- steep preferred tea bags in one quart of hot water instead of a gallon. After steeping, squeeze tea bags well, and add the sugar you normally would for a gallon into the concentrate. Then all you have to do party day is to pour the concentrate into a gallon jug, and add three quarts water!
If using crock pots or anything with plugs, make sure the wires are behind the tables against the walls, or taped down so people don’t trip over them.
Buy special liner bags for crock pots for quick and easy cleanup.
Cut rolls ahead of time so guests won’t be at risk of cutting themselves. No sharp knives on the buffet table-especially if there are children around!
Rolls are best cut with a serrated blade, not a smooth blade.
If you’re serving soup, make sure the crock pot is in ‘Warm’ mode, and stir every once in a while – especially if you have creamy soup.
Have several salt and pepper shakers on the available dining tables, as well as a set on the buffet table.
Butter sticks can be placed one each on small plates at each table (or on each end of each table.) Don’t forget to provide butter knives!
Use laundry baskets lined with trash bags for additional ice buckets or as extra trash cans. (I suggest double bagging for the ice!)
You can also have the kids walk around once in a while with a trash bag in hand, asking guests if they have any trash to deposit. Less clean-up for you and the kids get a chance to serve others!
Hosting Christmas Open Houses is the best way for our family to tone down the holiday chaos, enjoy our company, and even save money!
This allows us to spend more time together as a family, get the Christmas shopping done, and one surprise side benefit – we usually have enough leftover party foods the next day that we don’t have to cook!
If you decide to host a Christmas Open house, I’d love to hear about it! Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your story- and don’t forget to send some pictures!
Have a fantastic Christmas!
Beth Brubaker is the Assistant Editor of RUBY magazine, and a regular contributor to our monthly magazine. She blogs at Footprints in the Mud where you can read more of her inspirational, humorous, and home / family advice articles.
You can also find Beth’s newest books from RUBY’s Reading Corner!
Such an adorable tiny birdhouse to decorate your Christmas tree or add to any holiday display! Be sure to visit Katherine’s Corner for weekly creative inspiration, giveaways, and her Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop.
This Christmas Tree Birdhouse Ornament is a child-friendly DIY for ages 8 and up.
Please be careful especially while using the glue gun.
What You Need
- Empty bathroom tissue cardboard tube or paper towel cardboard tube
- Small piece of burlap about 3 inches square
- Christmas picks, berries and pine, holly berries, sparkles etc.
- Cord, yarn or jute for wrapping
- Hot glue gun
- Craft knife
- Hole punch Glue gun
Let’s Make It!
Cut the cardboard tube in half. Most bath tissue tubes are 4 inches long.
Or cut a 2 inch section of paper towel cardboard tube.
Using a hole punch or a pencil, cut or push a hole about 1/3 up from the bottom.
Start gluing the cord, jute, rope or yarn a little at a time until you have covered the tube.
Please have a grown up do this step to locate the hole inside the covered tube.
Using your craft knife cut the jute away from the hole, add a spot of glue if it starts to fray.
Cut a 1.5 inch circle from card stock
Cut 1.25 x 1.75 inch card stock
Cut burlap 1.25 x 1.75
Glue the card stock in place for the roof and then add some glue and cover with burlap.
I had some pretty burlap with lace scraps; I think it gives the illusion of snow.
Glue a piece of jute to the roof (for hanging).
Now gather all of your little bits of Christmas craftiness and make a pretty ornament topper. Or if you prefer, just leave it with the burlap and don’t add the topper.
This is such a cute way to recycle and to decorate!
Please do not place your ornament near an open flame.
Katherine Corrigan is a regular contributor to RUBY magazine. You can find more of her creative and inspiring posts on her blog at Katherine’s Corner, where you can also participate in the weekly Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop.
This is the time of year when we begin to see and hear all of the seasonal preparations for Christmas . . . as described in that well-known holiday favorite song, “the most wonderful time of the year.” Except for those among us who do not find that the holidays are a wonderful time at all.
There are many people all around us who are lonely, sad, and broken-hearted, making Christmas an extremely painful time of year. Perhaps you are one of those experiencing that aching in your heart as we approach the holidays. If you are, then please know that you are not really all alone.
I realize that it feels that way when you look around and see families everywhere, parties and get-togethers, church celebrations, and friends gathering to celebrate. You feel like you are on the outside looking in at all of the joyous festivities. Do you feel that way? I do too, sometimes, and we all have personal experiences that have created that feeling.
It could be the loss of a life-long partner, or a broken relationship, or the distance of miles between you and your loved ones. Some of us feel alone because we are afraid to connect with other people, sometimes even within our own churches or families. Others feel alone because the ones that we love are no longer with us, for any number of reasons.
The other day we were in a restaurant, our little family, and in the booth right next to us was an elderly gentleman, sitting all alone. He was all dressed up in a fine suit, white shirt, and tie. His shoes were polished nicely, and he looked as if he had just come from a church service. His silver-gray hair was combed carefully, and at first I thought perhaps he was waiting for someone to join him.
As we continued on our merry way, our little family, with our girls being silly and occasionally teasing each other about the soup or the rice or the noodles (we were in our favorite Chinese restaurant), I noticed that our gentleman friend in the next booth continued to sit alone. He silently ate his rice, and soup, and noodles, alone with no companion or friend.
My family didn’t notice, I don’t think, and I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but my heart was sad for him. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been – sometimes I’m quite delighted to be allowed to eat my lunch in peace and quiet, but I don’t think that was what was going on in this situation. After jostling and traipsing back and forth to the buffet bar numerous times, my girls finally settled down to eat.
But before they launched into their typical hysterical rendition of “I know how to get the paper out of the fortune cookie without breaking it open” competition, I stood up and walked over to the buffet bar one last time. As I returned to my seat, I happened to glance over at the elderly gentleman sitting in the booth next to us, and he looked up just in time that our eyes met. I smiled. He beamed with a gentle look of hope.
That was all. Just a look. Perhaps it meant nothing. But to me, it was just a teeny, tiny opportunity to see into another soul and acknowledge that he was not, really, all alone in this world. Sometimes the little things are all we get to do, but if we do those little things that God brings into our lives, it just might be enough to change someone’s day. This Christmas season, let’s all look for opportunities to do those little, but so meaningful, acts of kindness. Because He first loved us, let us love one another.
Nina Newton is the Senior Editor of RUBY magazine, as well as a free-lance writer and editor.
“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
The words coming from the fellowship hall’s sound system rang in Melanie’s ear. She walked toward her spot through a crowded room, hauling a large metal table. Today was the annual Christmas bazaar at the town’s Baptist church, and Mel was there to sign copies of a book series containing a few of her stories. But there was no carol ringing within her heart. How could a thirty-year-old single gal with no prospects be “merry and bright”?
She heaved a sigh, feeling like the last person who should be writing inspirational stories called “All in Good Time” or “Wait and See.”
As she struggled to unfold the table, her hand caught a sharp edge, and the table crashed to the floor. An icy knot grew in Melanie’s stomach as blood pulsed to the surface of her finger.
Great. Blood-smeared books are just what people want for Christmas. She pulled a tissue from her bag and wrapped it around her finger.
“Let me help with that,” said a deep voice from behind Mel.
She whirled around and saw a handsome, smiling man. He grabbed the table and placed it against a wall decorated with a colorful wreath. “Will that do?”
She mustered a smile. “Thank you.”
He motioned toward a corridor. “The restroom’s at the far end of the hall. There are Band-Aids and peroxide in the cabinet.”
“Thanks.” Mel walked off.
When she returned, the stranger extended his hand. “My name’s Jake.” He gestured to the large poster with her name in bold lettering. “And you’re Melanie.”
She took his big, warm hand in her uninjured one and glanced over the eye-catching display he’d made with the books. “I didn’t expect you to do all this, too.”
“No problem.” As Jake surveyed her stack of books, his gaze fixed on Inspiration for Singles. Way to be subtle.
“I hear you’re donating your proceeds to a Christmas fund at Northern Home.”
Mel nodded. “They’ll go toward gifts for those who have nowhere to go over the holiday.”
“I do some writing as well,” he shouted over the noise of vendors setting up tables around them and the music that still blared.
“Always nice to meet a fellow—” Before she could finish her sentence, an elderly lady rushed up to Jake.
“Wonderful to see you on a Saturday morning, Pastor.” She took his arm.
“Good morning, Phyllis. Would you be interested in buying one of these books to raise money for a worthy cause?” He flashed a big smile.
“It’ll make Christmas a little brighter for a poor child,” Mel added, grateful for Jake’s lead-in.
“Let me see what you’ve got.” The prospective buyer scanned the titles, and then picked up a copy of Christmas Miracles. “I’ll take this one.”
Mel autographed the volume, and the lady paid in cash.
A thick silence hung between her and Jake, despite the tide of holiday clamor.
“So, you’re a pastor?” Mel asked.
“I also write a weekly column for the local newspaper.”
“What do you write about?”
Jake rubbed the back of his neck and gave a low chuckle. “I give advice to singles.”
Mel’s gaze dropped to his left hand. No wedding ring. Before she could think of what to say, he was called away.
Over the next hour, several shoppers stopped by Mel’s book table. She answered questions and made a few sales, but she couldn’t stop thinking about Jake.
When the crowds thinned out, he returned and gave her a cup of coffee.
She held out one of her books. “I’d like to give you this as a thank-you for coming to my rescue.” She handed him Inspiration for Singles.
“This will be useful for my singles group.” He shifted his feet. “We meet here every Monday night at seven.”
Was that an invitation? She wasn’t sure. “Would you like me to sign your copy?”
“Of course.” His deep blue eyes fixed on hers. “And I hope you’ll read my column next week in The Review.” He winked. “It’s about anticipating the unexpected.”
As she gave her book back to him, their hands touched. Did he feel the same attraction?
Mel’s heart surged with hope. Outside, Christmas bells were ringing. This time they rang right within her heart.
Pat Jeanne Davis writes from her home in Philadelphia, Pa. She is married and mom to two sons. Pat loves to work in her flower garden and travel. She has completed two historical inspirational novels and is represented by Leslie H. Stobbe and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She loves to hear from her readers. Please visit her at www.patjeannedavis.com
“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger…” Luke 2:6-7 NIV
Recently, a friend asked me to describe my favorite Christmas memory. I struggled to think of just the right memory, the perfect Christmas. The one that stood out from the rest like a Hershey Kiss in a pile of peppermints.
I searched my mind and heart for memories of Christmases past, from my own childhood all the way to when my kids were small and the wonder of Santa was very magical.
I recalled the time when I was probably six or seven, and the power went out on Christmas Eve, forcing my parents, sisters, and I to celebrate by candlelight.
Or when my children, Zack and Abby, were just little ones with chubby cheeks and sparkling eyes. I dressed them in matching Rudolph shirts and took candid pics of them under the beautifully lit tree.
Or how about the time we “adopted” a family and bought gifts for each member. That was certainly a memorable Christmas.
Truthfully, each and every Christmas that I can remember has had some pretty perfect moments.
I remember them with such fondness that my lips curl in a smile and my mood brightens just thinking of them.
But then there are some moments that aren’t so wonderful too. Like the time that my whole family got sick with the flu and had to postpone our festivities until two weeks later. Or the time that “Santa” forgot to bring the main present that Zack wanted.
Yes, lots of imperfect times clutter my holiday memories, too. And that’s okay because my Christmases have been filled with the people I love most, imperfect people, just like me, and made up of a few pristine moments but mostly a lot of flawed ones.
So there was not just one perfect Christmas I could describe to my friend. It seemed as if the memories of each imperfect Christmas had been pieced together to form the warmest, fuzziest blanket for my heart and soul.
They were all a part of each other now, forever stitched together with a bond that couldn’t be broken. No, I certainly couldn’t just narrow it down to one, most memorable, most awesome Christmas.
Or could I? My mind sparked with thoughts of a Christmas thousands of years ago. The night was filled with angels, shepherds, a bright star, and a virgin, Mary, and her husband, Joseph.
That night even the most imperfect people and circumstances were brought together by God to bring forth perfection Himself, in human form.
Baby Jesus was born in a humble barn among dirty hay and animals. But God used all of this to let Jesus’ humility but also his transcendence shine through on that night.
How blessed I am that God sent His Son as a most precious gift, to be the King of the earth and the King of my heart. Surely this was the most perfect, holy Christmas ever, in all of history.
As my Christmas memories burn bright in the landscape of my mind, they mesh together to form a glow more precious than the warmth of the candlelight service at church.
I am thankful for all of the perfect and imperfect moments each Christmas brings but especially for the birthday of my Savior.
This holiday season, take time to slow down, take a break from all of the shopping and wrapping, and ponder your Christmas memories.
Which ones stand out the most to you? Have you thanked God for the birth of His Son? Do you know someone who needs to hear the true meaning behind Christmas?
Be encouraged to celebrate Jesus by making Him the focus of all of your festivities, and better yet, all of your memories to come.
Alisha Ritchie writes from North Carolina where she enjoys spending time with her husband, Brandon, of almost twenty years, and two busy but wonderful teenagers, Zack and Abby. She is a Physical Therapy Assistant by profession but in recent years has also become a multi-published author of devotions and inspirational stories to inspire others in their walk with God. You can read more of her writing at www.seekhimdaily.wordpress.com
Christmas traditions are a special part of everyone’s holiday season. Here is one of our favorites! Sarah Johnson shares with us her love of one Christmas tradition, “Cookies Galore!” We would love to hear about some of YOUR favorite Christmas traditions so we can share them with the members, readers, and followers of RUBY magazine.
“I love those extravagant double-page magazine layouts with so many cookies that the dishes bump together, all jostling and glistening with excess. When chilly weather rolls around, it is to that ideal I aspire, filling as many plates and bowls as can be managed, non-stop, until by the light of my Christmas tree, every corner spills with abundance. The coldness of lack melts away, replaced by the warmth of plenty. The feast. The banquet. The joy of having more than enough to share.”
Sarah Johnson writes, photographs and gardens from her home near the tidal marshes of the Delaware Bay. Her work is inspired by the glory of God’s creation and the nuances of light in life, from that of literal sunshine to the shadow-dispelling joy of serving her Creator. Herding three cats, two children and a husband, keeps her busy between editing flowerbeds and weeding paragraphs. She is the editor of ‘Garden Cumberland’, a gardener’s resource that encourages others to find their hearts in the sunshine and soil of South Jersey. https://www.facebook.com/GardenCumberland
Thought for the Day: Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
My Christmas houses stay on display all year round. I appreciate the intricate details of design and work that produces such beautiful pieces. It is comforting to have that warm Christmas feeling in the house during every season.
The houses are all unique, but like a good puzzle all the pieces fit together to create the picture of a perfect village. The light shining from within is peaceful and inviting. It is easy to imagine being a part of such a warm and comforting community.
Today, as I was changing a light bulb in one of the houses, I was thinking that God wants us to shine from within to transmit His peace and tranquility to the world.
As Christians we have a responsibility to witness to unbelievers, by showing love and respect for one another. God is working through us when we minister to the needy, treat those who are hurting with gentle care, feed the hungry and clothe the poor.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6(NIV)
By telling others about Jesus Christ, we are showing them the way out of darkness and into the light.
Prayer: Lord, help us to reflect your love and grace, so that others are drawn to your light. In the name of Jesus, amen.
Nells Wasilewski is a regular contributor to RUBY magazine.
I have wrestled with light against darkness this year and I have won.
It was a hard-earned victory, though, so while I have conquered, I am weary.
For a start, I slipped together the parts of our pre-lit Christmas tree, plugged it in and noticed burnt-out bulbs dotting the tree here and there.
Only, I couldn’t find the replacement bulbs. Anywhere.
So, I gave up. Most of the lights still worked, so I loaded that tree full of colorful beads and family ornaments.
Then, deep down in the bottom of the Rubbermaid ornament container, I discovered the baggy holding the new light bulbs.
(Note to self: It’s easier to replace lights on a tree when it doesn’t have ornaments all over it. Next year, make sure the lights are on top of the ornaments in the box.)
I finish the tree and move on to new things.
We have lived in our home now for 11 years. I have the Christmas decorating pretty much down to a well-rehearsed performance.
The garlands and lights are already strung together.
The strategically placed bows tell me where the corners sit when they are hung.
So, I just lift this Christmas greenery onto the nails that are in the same place as last year and the year before that and years and years back.
I plug the lights in.
And, voila. Christmas beauty in our home.
Only some years I am not so lucky. I plug in the strand of lights and it is dark. Dead.
Then I have to decide. Fight the fight? Hunt relentlessly for the bulb I need to replace to get this light strand shining again?
Or concede defeat from the beginning, untangle the dead lights from the garland and replace it with a new strand?
For years, I chose the hunt.
But usually I ended a thirty minute wrestling match with the light strand with my hands cut to pieces, broken fingernails galore, and absolutely drained of Christmas cheer plus this: a still-broken string of lights because I never found the offending bulb.
So, now, I choose to protect my joy and replace the lights instead. For about $5, I am a happier mom at Christmas time.
This year, though, my struggle has taken on new forms.
It was all of 40-some degrees out this morning with a bone-chillingly cold rain falling and I stood there in my heavy sweatshirt battling the light.
Somehow this year when I hang that same-old garland in the same-old place with those same-old lights, it didn’t fit. I either had too many lights or too few.
I do not know how this happened.
So, I have been working at this for days now because of our insanely busy schedule and the uncooperative weather.
Today, I have decided, is the day that I end this. I will win. In the rain. In the cold. I do not care.
So, I stretch and twist and wind that light around the garland, get to the end, plug the lights in….and half the lights don’t work.
These are the lights I just tested three days ago when they worked just fine.
So, I fight. I dig around the Christmas boxes until I find the replacement lights and I begrudgingly search for the burned out bulb because this year….this year, I will not be defeated.
Finally, I win.
I do not have the most beautifully or elaborately decorated home by anyone’s standard, but I do have light, and I am pleased.
Because light is worth fighting for.
And how we have had to fight this year.
I have attended the funerals.
I have prayed for those who lost their children.
I have listened to the bitter hurt of mourning and sadness.
I have reminded myself over and over of this: first things first–in the crushing busyness of the schedule, I choose Christ before all, and this is hard and it is yet another fight.
I have calmed my daughter down again and again and again when she frets over ISIS and terrorists and whether she is safe.
And right there in the midst of all that darkness, I look for His Light.
Because this is what God promises.
John tells us:
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5 ESV).
Later in his life, John writes it again:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5 ESV).
Even in the pitchest black of the darkest night one shiny bulb can split through that darkness with fierce determination.
Even in the pitchest black of your darkest night, God can split through that darkness because Light is Who He Is.
This Christmas, seek His light.
Heather C. King is a member of the Ruby Blogger Team and a regular contributor to the Ruby for Women magazine. You can read more of her inspirational posts on her blog, Room to Breathe.
As the Christmas season approaches I am going to be featuring Christmas songs as the Song of the Week. There are so many songs I could choose from and not enough space to share them all. I hope you enjoy the ones I do share through December.
The first thing I want to encourage everyone to do is to make sure that your life doesn’t get so busy that you can’t enjoy the reason we are celebrating. Don’t get so busy that you don’t spend time with your family. Slow down and reflect.
One of the things that I really enjoy doing during the holidays is just sitting in the living room with the Christmas tree, all the lights turned off except for the tree lights, and just soak it all in. I pray for those that come to mind and worship quietly, thankful for my Salvation that was born on Christmas Day.
Try it for yourself.
“THE GOOD SHEPHERD” by Donna B. Comeaux
The nocturnal evening was clear, cold, and quiet. Except for tiny specks of twinkling light, nothing else disturbed the patent leathered sky. Bleats filled the air as shepherds made their way to hillsides to begin their watch. Just before darkness consumed the earth, shepherds inspected the herds one last time then resumed their position. With a staff firmly placed in one hand, each shepherd wore a turban and a long robe, along with a scarf tucked close to their neck to shield from the cold.
Their only job: guard and protect the sheep.
The life of a shepherd isn’t easy. He must be alert, ready at all times to ward off the enemy. And with certainty, he must place the sheep above himself.
Long before his birth, the Good Shepherd made careful preparation to protect his flock. Through Abraham he promised a nation, not of Israelites, but of aliens, the children of promise(1). As he carefully laid out his plan, he gave us a set of rules to live by so we would neither die before our appointed time, or give into temptation. He warned us to worship him in spirit and in truth, not with the aid of objects we can see and touch.
If you’re not in the habit of studying biblical history, it may seem as though some events happened by chance, or that others had complete control. But upon further examination and meditation on the scriptures, we find that the seemingly meaningless rule to impose a census by Caesar Augustus was all orchestrated by God to move Joseph and Mary from Nazareth in Galiee to Bethlehem where our savior was born.
For centuries, God had his people kill a sacrificial lamb, knowing full well that it was a foreshadow of what was to come. When the true lamb arrived through the womb of a virgin, who were the first to hear of it? The shepherds. God didn’t choose the religious (Sadducees or Pharisees), or kings and statesmen. He chose men who worked for a minimum wage.
From the beginning, God planned for Jesus to live so he might die. Instead of sending him as an angel or as a full grown human being, he reduced Jesus Christ to that of a baby. This lamb had to drink milk first before allowed to eat meat. He lived among us and had his patience tested. He endured ridicule, bullying, and slander. He was called an imposter. They talked behind his back and said he performed miracles because he was of Satan(2). For forty days and nights, he wandered the wilderness hungry, listening to the evil one tempt him in every way.
Like the shepherds, Jesus Christ had options. To stand ready to fight the enemy in order to protect his sheep, or cry out and be rescued by God, leaving his flock to fend for themselves.
Jesus Christ chose to live among a chaotic people. Then he drank the bitter cup of death.
The closest I can come to that kind of love is the love I have for my children. I’d do anything for them. But can I? I can’t rescue them from sin, though I want to. I can’t forgive their sins and wash them clean, though I want to. I can hold them. Rock them. Sing them a song. Read scriptures with them. Pray endlessly for them. But I can’t save them.
I’m not the Good Shepherd.
Sometimes when I reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ, I find that I get so caught up in the manger that I don’t see the tortuous ordeal our Lord and Savior lived through. I’d be angry if someone tried to bait me into an argument like the Pharisees and Saducees did Jesus. I’d definitely not spare my wrath when the disciples wanted to know who was going to be the greatest in the kingdom. And to have fed the five thousand and the disciples turn around and not be able to heal the sick boy(3) after witnessing such a miracle, I’d be furious.
He specifically chose the twelve. Lived with them day and night until he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He revealed himself to them in ways he never shared with the world. Such faithlessness had to weigh on him. To come down to earth and show himself in the form of a man and witness such humanity had to cause him concern.
Then again, hadn’t Jesus witnessed such weakness since man’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden?
We greive our Holy Father today with the same worldly way of thinking. I, for one, constantly beat myself up for not reaching my goals, or consume myself with my inabilities rather than devoting myself to prayer for all that I need.
Many of us have the tendency to separate his birth from his death, compartmentalizing Jesus Christ in tiny Christmas wrappings and silly Easter bunnies then have the audacity to call it a Passover celebration.
God Almighty is Holy! We can in no way contain him in pretty wrappings than we can restrain him to particular times of year. God is forever. God is here and now. He’s not someone to be worshipped only on a festive holiday. He’s not someone to be worshipped only when we decide we need him. He’s not an insurance policy to be pulled out only in disastrous times. HE IS forever. Amen!
We don’t have the right to live frightened, doubtful lives. Jesus Christ freed us with his death. No matter how much I love my children, or my family, I could never give them that kind of freedom.
After examining the story of baby Jesus, I find that I can no longer look at Christmas as a day to celebrate the birth of our Lord. I’m drawn to the life in his death. Hidden beneath the downpour of blood and water is my life. I’ve been made clean by his death and given hope through his resurrection. The manger isn’t the beginning of Jesus Christ. He has and always will be the Alpha and Omega. Time can’t contain him. Death can’t hold him. Holidays can’t resurrect him.
I see how Jesus Christ puts up with my foolishness every single day. How he endures my doubts, my fears, my carelessness, my struggles to worship him in spirit and in truth. Every day I’m repenting. And every moment of the day he is forgiving.
When you serve a God who loves you as deeply as he does, is it really possible to wait for a festive time of year to fall on your knees and worship him? I can’t contain myself that long. His love is too overwhelming.
How about you? Can you wait?
Freelance Writer, Poet, Novelist
I’ve been hit in the face with a hockey puck.
A basketball bounced off my head a few times in elementary school and broke my glasses at least once.
A softball came hurtling at me when I was about 13 or so and slammed into my side.
Most people, you know, see balls zooming through the air straight toward their face and do smart things like step aside or jump out of the way or duck.
Given the choice between fright or flight, I just choose freeze.
It’s pretty much a guarantee that if forced to make a decision in a moment of pressure, I’ll choose the most stupid thing you can possibly do.
Now you know not to pick me for your kickball team.
I need time, lots of time, to ponder and consider a response to any situation, question, or problem. I can’t just hit that reply on the email message and I generally avoid the phone which requires instant feedback. A comfortable phone conversation for me would look like this:
“Heather, what do you think about _______?”
“I don’t know. Let me think about it and I’ll email you back later.”
That, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the initial phone call, which was to handle the problem quickly.
But I don’t do quickly. Quickly for me results in broken glasses, a hockey puck in the face and a sore back where the softball slammed into me.
Quickly results in foolish decisions, words I wish I hadn’t said, poor judgment, and costly mistakes.
The world pushes and pressures with this relentless rush and my heart bruises easily from all the battering.
Yet, I read this Christmas story and see God choosing a carpenter—not a CEO, not a king, not a go-getter or an up-and-comer—to participate in this miracle of God-in-human-flesh.
This simple man named Joseph, surely he knew so well not to rush the measuring, the cutting, or the smoothing of the splintered surfaces on his workbench table.
Choose your wood wisely. Go with the grain. Etch out the plan before carving.
Long-learned lessons of the carpenter seeped into Joseph’s soul.
In Scripture, he doesn’t talk, not once.
He doesn’t whine to God and lament the news that His fiance was mysteriously and scandalously pregnant.
He doesn’t bully Mary into confessions and repentance and demand an explanation.
He takes his time, this Joseph, and doesn’t spew words out thoughtlessly and apologize for them later.
When he hears the news of Mary’s pregnancy,
“he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:19-20 NIV).”
In The Women of Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs writes:
“Joseph did not act in haste. He thought things through. Prayed things through. He ‘contemplated’ (NET); he ‘pondered’ (MOUNCE). When at last Joseph decided to sleep on it, ‘God graciously directed him what to do’” (The Women of Christmas, p. 105).
He gave God time to do the work. He didn’t let circumstances bully him into a corner.
He didn’t react. He responded.
I’m the reluctant student learning this same lesson at the feet of my own Carpenter.
For this is what God, is:
“For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything(Hebrews 3:4).”
Our Father is building and He’s working slow and never rushing.
He’s asking me to ponder, consider contemplate: ….choose the wood wisely, go with the grain, measure and plan before cutting and shaping.
We try to rush the process. We toss out solutions as fast as the projects pile up at our feet.
And we make a right awful mess.
Yet, He teaches us the rhythm of His grace. The rhythm of His will. The rhythm of His strong hands working slowly, masterfully, carefully…stroke after stroke on the raw wood that is us.
This season, let us slow the rhythm of our breathing to match His.
Refuse to be rushed.
Protect the process.
Take the time.
And consider this…..consider Christmas…..consider the wonder of a Savior come and a God at work and a perfect plan and the God who is the builder of everything.
Heather King is a member of the Ruby Blogger Team.
She is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
The Importance of You
One of my favorite Christmas Carols is See Amid the Winter’s Snow. The melody is beautiful and the message it conveys, is equally important and awe inspiring – Jesus came to Earth to redeem us from our sins. Finally, the day comes and Mary gives birth to Jesus. She wraps Him snugly in some cloth and lays him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. They are in a barn…with the animals. Ok, confession – this might be my very favorite part of the Christmas story, because as important as it is that Jesus did come – how He came is equally important.
According to Isaiah 1:3, it is very likely that the only actual witnesses to the birth of our savior were an ox and a donkey; the humblest of creatures. After Jesus was born, shepherds came, and then foreigners from the East, neither of these sets of people were not held in very high regard by society. The savior of the world was not born in an exclusively glamourous hospital, nor was He delivered by the best midwife in town. Jesus was born in a stable with animals as witnesses. How could we ever boast or think of ourselves in more than a humble way…and at the same time – how could we ever think that we weren’t unbelievably important to God? I think it was important to God the Father that we understand that Jesus was one of us. Many -most of us were not born in a stable – but God was. When we call on God for help, hope and healing, yet we feel as if we can’t go to Him– as if we aren’t good enough somehow Jesus can whisper to us – “I am the savior of the world and I was born in a stable so you would never have to feel that you are less important than anyone – ever.”
Jesus came to this earth to save US. He was in heaven already, but He came here for our sake. Do you ever consider that? Jesus left heaven for Earth. Would you do that? I honestly don’t know if I would, but I do know that His love for you and his love for me was so great that He couldn’t imagine not coming here to save us. It’s so humbling, so incredibly mind blowing to know that Jesus came to save us no matter who we are, what we look like, what our last names are; whether we have one dollar or one million. Jesus came to save all of us. That is the greatest gift of all. No one is more important than anyone else. It means more to me now, than it ever has, because I understand it more than I ever have. Thank you Lord for loving us so much that you came to save us.
See amid the winter’s snow, Born for us on earth below,
See the tender Lamb appears, Promised from eternal years.
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn! Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Say, ye holy shepherds, say What’s your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep On the lonely mountain steep?
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn! Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.
“As we watched at dead of night, Lo, we saw a wondrous sight;
Angels singing peace on earth Told us of the Savior’s birth”.
Hail, thou ever-blessed morn! Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem.
Maxine Young is a member of the Ruby Blogger Team.
This blog post is based on Advent Music, a series that is currently taking place on her blog: His Work in Progress.
We have entered the most holy of seasons, a time of anticipation, celebration and recognition of Christ, the promised Messiah. Events and images of past Nativity seasons are stamped in my memory, like pictures on a Christmas card. Perhaps it is the same for you.
A few friends will join me to share favorite Christmas memories over the next several weeks. They will be featured here on Mondays and Fridays, kind of like bookends to the busyness of the Christmas season. Their stories and mine are my Christmas gift to you. I know you will enjoy them, and I hope you will share some of your own stories with family and friends.
The first sweet memory that comes to mind for me is wrapped in sensory cues that carry me back to Christmas eve in a little Catholic church in my hometown.
Celebrating mass at midnight was as much a part of my childhood Christmases as candy canes, presents and trips to my grandparents’ house in Chicago. I loved the excitement of being awake so close to the moment when Santa Claus would visit our stone house at the edge of town. My four siblings and I might struggle to stay awake, but arriving home after midnight mass meant we were that much closer to Christmas morning with presents under the tree and good food on the table.
When we very were young, my parents would send us to our rooms for a nap early in the evening then wake us in time to go to church. I loved the excitement of bundling up to go out in the middle of the night. In my memory, there was always snow on Christmas eve, and it was midnight-cold. Our frosty breath hung in the air as we walked down the sidewalk from our car and climbed the stone steps to the wooden doors of the church. Once the doors swung open, warmth and the fragrance of candles and incense pushed away the winter chill.
All was quiet inside the church, except for soft organ music. Another set of steep stairs took us to the holy water font and into the candlelit sanctuary. We knew without being told that we had to whisper, or not talk at all, as we made our way to the pews, genuflecting before slipping onto the wooden seats and making the sign of the cross without even thinking of the symbolism behind the gesture. A prayer offered up at the padded kneeling bench and perhaps the lighting of votive candles in the corner near the statue of Jesus were preludes to the main reason for venturing out on a cold Indiana winter night.
The clanging of incense jars hanging from chains signaled the entrance of the priest and his servers. Robed in white and gold with a purple sash draped around his neck, the priest walked slowly down the short aisle and greeted us “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
Latin was still the language of the Catholic church when I was growing up, and I had much of the service in my memory almost before I knew what the words meant. I was a little saddened when Catholics began celebrating mass in English. I left the church soon after the change and I remember Latin now as a beautiful language shared by me and the mysterious Trinity as I knelt to worship. (When given a choice in high school, I chose to study Latin rather than Spanish. It’s a language I still love.)
We celebrated “high mass”, so for an hour we would stand, sing, kneel and sit as directed. When I was old enough, I walked with the others to the altar for Holy Communion. The movement helped to keep me awake — or at least that’s how I remember it. I’m sure some dozing took place as well.
Mass ended shortly after we received Holy Community, once the priest had finished cleaning the golden vessels with his white cloths. A Christmas blessing was bestowed and we were dismissed with this admonition:
“Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”
Sometimes there were donuts or cookies and juice in the basement after mass, but most often we were anxious to hurry home in case Santa had arrived early. Driving through the middle of our little town, we passed the courthouse square, which was lit from top to bottom with strings of multi-colored lights. It was beautiful, especially in snowfall.
I am no longer a “practicing Catholic”, but I have returned for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve many times. The beauty of the service and the mystery of the night never fails to impress on me the wonder of The Nativity.
“Packing a Shoebox” by Heather King
Every year, the Operation Christmas Child videos turn me into a tearful mess, just watching children from around the world cheering and dancing because they receive one simple box for Christmas.
Maybe inside they find a toothbrush and toothpaste….or a toy car….or some hair clips.
That’s enough to make them cheer.
And it’s enough to make me cry at their grateful hearts and their innocent joy.
Every year, the organization, Samaritan’s Purse, collects shoeboxes stuffed full of goodies that they then deliver to needy children all over the globe for Christmas.
Oh how easy to forget, though, that the gift isn’t just the items we pack into a small box and ship out.
The gift is the testimony of God’s love–that our God sees them and loves them.
National Collection Week is in November, before Thanksgiving—this year, November 17-24. That means that we’re in the middle of prime shoebox packing season.
We’ve been packing shoeboxes as a family for several years and it’s by far one of my favorite Thanksgiving/Christmas traditions because it’s a reminder to be grateful. It’s a way to shift our focus off of getting and onto giving.
Our church also hosts a packing party each year. In addition to the individual boxes we can pack at home, we’ve been collecting bulk supplies at the church. Then we’ll gather as a church family and pack as many boxes as we can by working together.
Since our packing party is an annual event, I can prepare all year long instead of scrambling for items the last few months of the year. I hunt all year for clearance sales, especially after holidays, and other deals. Every time I go to the store I buy some crayons, soap, washcloths, or maybe a toothbrush to pack into a shoebox. By only adding about $5 to my weekly grocery budget, I’ll be able to collect around 100 boxes of crayons, as well as other items, because a little bit each week adds up to a lot.
Homemade items are also great gifts to pack into the shoeboxes. I’ve seen videos about people knitting slippers, sewing dresses, and carving wooden toys for shoeboxes. You can also find great craft and project ideas on Pinterest.
I’m not nearly so craft-capable, so my daughter and I keep it simple by making simple friendship bracelets and praying for the child who will receive each one.
Another family at our church makes small sewing kits for older girls inside empty mint tins and they collect small toolkits for boys.
I hope that you’ve packed a shoebox before and are making one again this year! If not, you can begin by learning more about the organization, including what to pack in your shoebox, where to find the closest drop-off location, and answers to other frequently asked questions at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child
Most important of all, pray for the child who will receive your shoebox! Prayer is so powerful. Don’t just send toys and toiletries; send time spent on your knees. That is how we can impact the world with the message of God’s love for them.
Heather King is a member of the Ruby Blogger Team. More of Heather’s inspirational articles can be found on her blog:
I love this line from the carol O Holy Night. Our Soul wants to feel of worth, of value. And we all search for that worth. We can rush around life looking for it in status, possessions and prestige, in appearances and position. But inevitably they fail and let us down. They fail to provide us with a true sense of our intrinsic worth. Or even if we think in one aspect of our lives we’re nailing it, we can be sure that a litany of faults, failures and mistakes will crowd in and take over. Value, worth and significance is not found on this earth, but in Christ.
In Christ we find our inestimable worth. We discover how much we are valued, cherished and loved by the God who created us in the first place. And in that we find the meaning of Christmas. It is often quoted that Christmas is a time of giving, but actually it is really about receiving. Receiving the gift of the Son of God. Receiving the Savior who covers our imperfections, failings and sin and to give us grace, forgiveness and redemption. And gives us our worth.
I am forever grateful for God’s unconditional love of me, for the gift of His Son – my Savior
Definitely Good News and glad tidings of great joy!
Philippa Smyth is a member of the
Ruby Blogger Team.
Find more of Philippa’s inspirational thoughts on her blog
“A Change of Heart – A Christmas Story” by Donna B. Comeaux
“I’ve decided to skip Christmas this year,” I said to my granddaughter, Angie, as I got on Highway 169 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Grandma, you did that last year.” Angie dropped her cell-phone-clasped-hands in her lap. Her brows furrowed as she stared at me. Due to the economy, the threat of furloughs, she hadn’t gotten anything from me last year and probably wondered if I’d leave her off my Christmas list again this year.
“Last year was different. I didn’t have any money. This year, I don’t feel like shopping. I’m tired of trying to decide what to get everyone. Besides, I can’t think of a thing you don’t already have.”
“Tickets to the Miley Cyrus concert.” Angie smiled, raising and lowering her eyebrows.
Miley Cyrus. The young lady who’s trying to prove she’s not a little girl anymore. I saw pictures of her…
Donna B. Comeaux is a member of the Ruby Blogger Team. You can read more of her inspirational writing on her blog, A Writer First.
Here at Ruby for Women, we are honored that our special friend Katherine, from Katherine’s Corner, so generously shares her craft projects and seasonal recipes with us. Here is her latest holiday craft that you can do for your home this Christmas season.
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving. I look forward to reading your posts and seeing all you have to share at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop next week. I am sure some of you brave souls went out and did some shopping today, it is officially the start of the “Countdown to Christmas”. How did you do? Did you find some great deals? I prefer to avoid the black Friday crowds. But, I respect all of you who do venture out for the bargains. Today I am happy to share my first bit of holiday craftiness, my Holiday Poinsettia Craft. You only need basic needle and thread sewing skills for this one ( wink).
What You Need
1 2x 12 Framed canvas
15 x 15 Piece of Holiday Fabric
Template (click HERE)
12 Pieces felt 9 x 12 inch size (one more if you cover the back)
Needle and thread to match your felt
Brooch, pendant, button or other adornment for the center
For the rest of this craft tutorial, click HERE.
HARPS OF GOLD
fills the air,
as gentle winds
on the strings
of harps of gold.Words golden in tone
can be heard
as the music swells
and crashes around,
sweeping on and on,
in a wealth of song,
through the hall
in a crescendo of happiness.
It is eternal sunshine
in the soul.
Come, buoyant heart,
let us storm
the gates of heaven.
© Miriam Jacob
The Christmas Cookie Swap Linky Party is ready for your cookie recipes.Lets get your holiday season off to a delicious start with some great cookie recipes for all of your holiday gatherings.
The Christmas Cookie Swap Linky Party will be open to add your cookie recipes old and new through December 20th. Share your cookies, cookie bars, even “cookie like” goodies all are welcome. Thanksgiving cookies too! Share your favorites and discover new ones.
I’ll be sharing more cookie recipes as the weeks move quickly into the Christmas season. I look forward to adding your cookie recipes to my favorites too. I am happy to announce that I have three lovely co- hostess. Janine from Confessions of a Mommyaholic, Angel from Sew Crafty Angel and Nina from Vintage Mamas Cottage. Please take a moment to follow them.
Since we can’t pop over to each others homes and swap cookies, this is the next best thing. Your cookies will be seen by visitors on all four blogs! I have created a board on my pinterest page where your cookies will be pinned. Grab your favorite recipes and Share, Share Share your cookies ♥. The Christmas Cookie Swap Linky Party will be posted on my sidebar ready for you whenever you have a new cookie recipe to share. You can share your cookies at the Thursday Favorite Things blog hop every week and again on the Christmas Cookie Swap linky whenever the mood suits you.♥
Katherine Corrigan is a member of our Ruby Blogger Team.
You can find her blog here: Katherines Corner
Cranberry sauce is traditionally served at Thanksgiving, but when we discovered this recipe on Marie’s blog, Healthy Ideas Place, we just had to share it with our readers! Not only is it a healthy alternative to the canned cranberry sauce that you can buy at the grocery store, it is easy to make and it’s so pretty, too. Make up a batch of this Homemade Cranberry Sauce for your holiday table – and be sure to visit Marie at her blog, Healthy Ideas Place, for lots more healthy hints and recipes for your family all year long.