Christmas is such a hard time of year. Everyone, including myself, is bogged down with “to-do” lists and running in circles. That is why this year I chose to focus on the Advent preparation for Christmas Day. Focusing on what I can give this season that will last and not just some wrapped up prize for someone to open. This year was especially draining – I am working full time (and part time). And being able to share my thoughts and sentiments was also very tough. I ran out of time and steam! My three month plan to “save” money just bottomed out – totally!  I ran myself ragged and didn’t stop until Christmas Day. When all was set and done – we had a simple Christmas. Everyone agreed not to buy needless gifts that no one wanted or needed. We decided on gift cards and small gifts.I for one hate getting gifts that I can’t/won’t ever use. It feels spoiled and useless to me. So we took everyone’s advice and did just that. After a Christmas Eve – yes guilty – of last minute gift hunting and kiffle baking, Christmas finally settled in.

Yet, I felt unsettled and thrown into the holiday :-(. I felt totally out of my element, like I was trying to catch up. I vaugely remember Christmas Eve – laughter and paper flying everywhere :-) – kids…you know.  So it seemed we had a “wild” Christmas Eve.

As I drifted off to sleep I had a restless energy and a “tiny” hopeful spirit for Christmas Day. I awoke with even more on my mind than the night before. Just too too much to do and today was the day. We set forth with our plans to have a simple menu instead of a big dinner. We wanted to relax and enjoy the day. The day was filled with present wrapping, laughter and just ‘goings on’. As always a busy house, we paced ourselves into the day and we finally settled in to open our gifts. We shared photos and a few humorous moments and Christmas Day was finally complete.

It would have been better if my Christmas cold/stomach bug didn’t catch up to me :-( yet the simplicity and comfort of the day was all I was longing for. I supposed a stocking filled with trinkets and a tree adorned with gifts is awesome and special but that isn’t what makes the reason for Christmas Day special. After all the gifts are opened and the paper is strewn around – those that you love dearest are the ones that you want to share the day with. Opening gifts alone is no fun either. Christmas is about special moments, joy, family, peace, love and faith – simplicity – these things cannot be wrapped up in boxes and decorated with bows. But they are simple gifts that last a lifetime.

I hope that you had a simply special Christmas.
Shari

So here it is the last week of Advent. A Family Advent: Keeping the Savior in the Season by Thomas Nelson Publishers, has guided us through the last few weeks. The themes being Hope, Peace, Love and now Joy – yes this is the time when the merriment of the holiday really starts to hit home. It is hard though when so much is going on. Work, work, work, holiday shopping, bills, errands, parties and where is the peace, the joy, the hope and the LOVE for the holiday that I once cherished as a child.

I swear I can never get Christmas right every year. Its like some year’s I am on – I get the right gifts and everything works out. And other years I am totally off  – I have no idea what to get anyone, I can’t think of a single meaningful thing to make or create. That is this year – I am befuddled, I am stumped, I am JOY-less. I can’t seem to do Christmas right this year. Even my attempt to go through Advent seemed chaotic and forced – I wanted this to be special. I am still trying to figure it out – how I can salvage this last month of ups and downs. In my struggle to find hope, in my struggle to find peace, in my struggle to love and find joy – I know that there is JOY – for the world, for me, for everyone there is joy.

I have to admit I’ve let the commercialism of Christmas get the best of me. And it has gotten me down – totally depressed and stressed :-(. I would be most joyful with my family and friends at the table, sharing time together and talking together. Last Christmas was just that – time together, the memories and the laughter that is what I remember – the gifts are nice and it is wonderful to give gifts and receive. But it’s not the same if you open your gifts alone. The JOY of togetherness is what makes the true gift of this season special. That is my prayer and wish for the Christmas;

May the JOY of the Saviour’s birth bring us together in harmony, hope, peace, love and grace.

Merry Christmas!

After a year of terrible news and a very stressful summer – I dug out this book A Family Advent: Keeping the Savior in the Season, published by Thomas Nelson. We have a few books here at the house for Advent and I felt that this one was appropriate – something new something to bring us all back together. See we live very busy lives – four grown adults, three who work full-time on different schedules and lead independent lives – holidays and weekends are the few times that we sit and talk or spend time together (or when the remote is lost :-)).

As I paged through, I haven’t read through it – I want to be surprised – I see something for EVERY FAMILY. There are verses, stories, activities and more. There is something for everyone to gain from these daily readings, reflections and activities for the next twenty-six days until Christmas Eve. Compared to the last 11 months a month-long respite with the Savior is over due.

The first week’s focus is HOPE and we need it. The first day asked us to reflect on wants and hopes – for this life and the next life. Hopes and wishes for just this week, the Christmas season and the New Year. I try (struggle) to see God in each aspect of life’s challenges and to find purpose in the things that come. I try to find JOY in the midst of chaos, struggle, financial worries and relationships. I HOPE that this week and season open doors to a better more focused New Year – focus on God and the importance of family and friends who support you no matter what challenges lay ahead.

What are your hopes, dreams and prayers? What do you long or this Advent season?

Here is the Prayer from Sunday’s reflection:

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the blessing of Your Word and Your Son in our lives. We thank You for the hope of our heavenly home where our family can dwell together with You forever. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Blessings this week and this Advent Season –

Thanksgiving….its a time to feast, seek gratitude and enjoy family.  This year was a bit different. Having been a year and a half since working full-time and part-time. I entered Thanksgiving Eve very worn tired and stressed. Holidays seem to trigger stress, discomfort, and problems. Feeling compelled to do for others leaves me so worn and tired sometimes. As I arrived home – ready to begin a paper delivering fest – I discovered that the papers were NOT ready to deliver there were just there. :-( But after some discussion and thought I would just bag and ready them for the “delivery day”. So the night of paper bagging and movie watching went off without a hitch. Late into the night I awoke on the sofa, shut off the tv and headed to bed. No worries tomorrow was Thanksgiving and I would ease into it.

Thanksgiving morning, I readied my pies crust, pumpkin pie mix and my sweet potatoes. As the pie baked away and the turkey sat ready to bake for hours. My mother, panicked and annoyed, said, “Will you get this sea of bags out of here so I can clean the living room? And where is the remote (to the cable box that is)?” I didn’t know moving and shifting the bags, searching under sofas, tables, baskets and more – the remote was missing. Weird I thought I thought I had it last night but I fell asleep and used the other remote to turn off the tv. So I put the papers in my car (for delivery Friday or Saturday), I showered and set back to find the remote. The pie was done, the turkey stuffed and cooking and the REMOTE HUNT still on. We looked in all the same places again and again. I even took to twice looking through the outside garbage (thinking it was tossed with torn papers and bundle bands) only to be disappointed. “Well, I said, I guess we’ll just have to enjoy one another’s company today.”

So as turkey day progressed and passed thoughts lingered as to where the remote had gotten to. We finally rested assured that the remote was somehow in the paper bags….somewhere – but where and which one? I didn’t even want to know. And at that point I didn’t care, I had taken the blame – it was my fault I was the last one to see it and now it was missing. So I entered Friday (Black Friday) with no shopping just plans to ready the house for Christmas. I vacuumed and dusted and put up the tree, I tinsled and ribboned and listened to music with ease. I even re potted my smallest Majesty palm tree (the only one to survive) and decked that one out for the holiday too.

"Small but still majestic & full of life."

I forgot all about the stupid remote and just enjoyed the carols and the warm glow of the icicle lights on the tree. I carefully, fashioned some decorative bows and hung ruby glass ornaments on each frond. Careful not to bind the middle stalk – yes this short little tree has hearty, healthy green stalks shooting out of the center. It is a short sassy little tree but bright with light and life. So another day was put away and done. 

I awoke Saturday morning and got dressed and coffeed up and ready for three or more hours of paper delivery. It was windy and cold and I wasn’t in the mood. I was upset still and kind of bummed about the holiday but trying to keep my spirits up. But my sister and I continued to deliver our papers (we have this system of green bags filled with 30 rolled/bagged papers and as we empty one bag we reach into the back and get another one). About three or four bags in Sandra went to grab a bag and it split spilling its papers all over the back seat of the car. “I’m not getting those” she said, “I’ll just use another bag.” “Wait, I said, I’ll use this empty one and put them in here, so I began stuffing papers into another bag, and for some reason we both looked back at the same time and…..

...there it lay. The lost and now found TV remote...

Sandra and I over joyed looked at each other and (very vocally) shouted “Yayayayayaa…oh yeah!” I had a feeling it was going to be in that bag – why I don’t know – we both did, sisters are like that sometimes. So we delivered the rest of the route and headed home. I had some errands to run before dinner and such so I did that. I came how with full bags ready to eat and decorate some more. And then as I plugged in the snowflake lights one side of the strand was out. Oh great….now this will be fun I mean who wouldn’t want to….

....unscrew the three tiny screws....

...and take off six CLEAR bands (you see them right?)....

Yeah I got the screws but the six clear bands had me puzzled – not to mention once you get the case open finding out which one of the 12 little buggers was out – and I wasn’t even sure I was on the right snowflake. But I was determined and past the point of contemplating just getting a new strand of lights. With the economy the way it is – it pays to do a little maintenance. So, with my niece’s help, I tried one and NO. Then I saw –  by some luck, blessing or whatever act of loving God who is sick of hearing me complain –  the second bulb looked a little grey so I tried it and……

"Voila!" Lights! Eight twinkling snowflakes.....

Very vocaly, I said, I screamed…”Oh YAYAYAYAY Yeah!” High five me mom!” I was overjoyed and just glad that no more setbacks were headed (YET). I hung the lights, tinsel and wreath and readied the Advent Wreath for Sunday. Finally, relaxed and at peace with the day. Thank YOU GOD it was a good day after all. Thank you.

Twinkling bright....

I know the stress is going to come and this month more than once, twice or thrice. But our Savior is on the Way – the drama is well worth the gift of this season. Peace, love and joy are on the way. No matter how bad the setbacks are — the spirit of Christmas is worth the wait. Ready with me and wait……wait for the blessed day. Wait with glad hearts, determined spirits and clear minds for the Savior’s Birthday!

Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

From pumpkin to puree...to pie and bread.

 The last few weekends were filled will fall fun; Halloween Parades, pumpkin picking (at Walmart :-) ) and of course baking. I did get some pretty nice size pumpkins for a good price. And between festivities I was carving and baking – not jack-o-lanterns but baking pumpkin into puree for breads, butters, pies, seeds and soup. This tradition (or fascination) started many years ago. I have been making pies, rolls, breads and now butter and soup out of fresh field pumpkins ever since. The fresh puree makes for a very moist bread and yummy pies. And these little pumpkin treasures and treats last very little time in my house or anywhere else for that matter. I enjoy it immensely, they are very easy to grow see Happenings,  Happenings II and Happenings III for the full details on the pumpkin “patch” in my yard. Unfortunately, my homegrown treasures didn’t make it to puree or pie. But is was amazing to see how fast and big the vine grew over the summer.

Yummy, yummy pumpkin nut bread

Puzzle mania...

These perfectly pleasing pumpkin tasks inspired another family project and favorite past time of my mother’s – puzzles. She broke out her 500 piece puzzle collection and we went at it. Frustrating at first – since we had to turn over all the pieces and “organize” them by color and assume where they belonged. We managed to get the border done that night and most of the top. The days that followed were challenging as it takes such a  long time to group together just a few pieces. And it has been bonding as well. And with more pumpkins to carve and ready for thanksgiving our puzzle is almost complete.

Puzzle on the way to completion....

The challenge and the frustration has turned to relaxation, concentration, cheer and pride. Simple projects and pleasures can bring a busy family together it is so nice.

What are some of your family projects? How have they helped the busyness of the season? Drop me a line….

All the best & Happy Fall,

Emmaus, Pennsylvania is a great place to live. Why? It’s small, its quiet, quaint and it has been on CNN’s Money List of  Top 100 Best Places to Live  for three years now. That is just AWESOME. There is tons of culture in Emmaus – to spite what Money Mag has to say. Family and community is getting lost in all of this party hard culture that we live in. I can’t think of a better town to live in where you can walk a block to see a great parade, or a few blocks to the square to hear music, walk your dog, and just walk around town.

Mom and I, Emmaus Halloween Parade 2010

 Yes, just a block down from our house – is part of the Annual Halloween Parade route – which winds around to main road Chestnut Street where is makes its end at the Triangle. There is just something about the organizations, schools, clubs and people that make up this Halloween Parade and every other event that happens here. Though, I was born here, but not raised – have to give Scranton, PA (love The Office btw :-) ) that honor – you do feel at home in this little town.

Seriously, in this little radius of 3 miles you can walk literally anywhere, it is safe, there is a sense of community, welcoming atmosphere, cohesiveness and community support. Check out more happenings on the Borough website and the Emmaus Main Street Program – next up is the Old Fashioned Christmas Celebration.

Yes, it is a tractor club....

...don't laugh....I'm sure it takes skill to drive a tractor plow....

...support our farms and farmers, with pride...

...Proud to be born and raised in Pennsylvania!!!!

God puts you where you are for a reason and so you CAN make a difference. Love and Blessings!

It was a jam-packed Saturday and I was feeling indisposed – just great! After a busy week of work, excercise, appointments and disappointments – I needed some time. I needed time to do more stuff, catch up on all my backed up work  and struggling for material, housework, vacuuming, cooking and scheduling. Did I mention I wasn’t tired?!?! What in the world?  I had so much to do and I was stressed – not tired- just stressed. Yet, I felt physically drained, mentally unwilling to complete any of these tasks and alone – in the dark. What am I to do? Well I decided to do the laundry – yes a collection of laundry baskets  had been adorning my “rather small” bedroom for months. It was time to go through it and put it in the drawers instead of just taking the clothes out of the dryer and throwing them into the clean laundry basket :-) to sift through when I needed  socks. Ok so the laundry was put away and there was a load in the washer – I was prepared to tackle that when I returned home, followed by vacuuming and cooking :-).

 I headed out to the store and interruption #1 – the gas points at GIANT were due to expire that day – so the entire city of Allentown was out to fuel up. Never mind I will come back later. After a quick run through the store, I headed home. Interruption #2 – my dear nephew (who is only a few years younger than I ) came by to use the computer. Which, by the way, I feel is terminal – hard drive may go at anytime – so I am uncomfortable with anyone using it. But I decided to share for a bit and that way I could tackle the laundry (drying), vacuuming and food preparations. 

 I gathered my materials on the kitchen counter – determined to bang out my work later on in the evening. And then it happened yes, three is a charm or a curse - interruption #3 – an Electrical Power Outage. Now I, we were in total darkness. What in the world to do now? With the little light I had left my step father handed me the flash light so I could find my cell phone and some candles. I called the power company only to find that we would be without power for the next 5 or 6 hours.

I found our box of advent candles, and set them up around our great room/kitchen since we’d be in the dark for a while. Mom decided to start our wood stove up since that would take the chill out of the air and as this happened it dawned on me that this “major interruption”  was not going to be so bad. See I was stressed to the max, I was busy all week and this Saturday was looking like it was going to be no different – until the power outage –  no telephone (well the fully charged cell phone worked :-), no tv, no computer, no coffee pot, no heat – completely cut off, from modern electrical conveniences – I had picked up some batteries at the store so the radio was on ;-) But we had to get conventional and a “bit” old-fashioned. This handy wood stove we have in our kitchen really saved the night. With our collection of newspapers, we had plenty of heat and enough to warm up some soup and water for tea. The night really came together and “brought us together”. We sat around the “fiery wood stove” and made paper logs and listened to the radio as we waited for the lights to kick back on. Though I rarely watch the tv, I missed it a bit – just because I couldn’t watch it, I felt the sudden urge for some coffee, even though it was 8PM. All these things that I really didn’t need or needed a break from suddenly haunted me a bit. And made me feel helpless like I was unable to cope with this darkness, this helpless feeling, this time when I really just needed to keep it simple, quiet and  “uninterrupted”. Wait but this was an interruption? Yes, this was an interruption from the distractions (telephones, YouTube, Tweetdeck notifications, TV) that were keeping me from focusing on work and important things (time with God, family, prayer and rest). So I had to spend a few hours in the same room with my family. The evening was filled with civil conversation, peace and a few other things:

Warm Glow

...a simple meal...

...some improvising....

....some folded laundry....

...a phone chit chat..."Yes, I even made dinner."

....clean dishes (we used the hot water from the wood stove)....

...battery operated, music...

and finally a bed time snack...since it was melting anyway!

 The night wasn’t that bad, I did get a lot of stuff done and most of what was on the list just in a different way. This small and short interruption brought out some critical thinking, togetherness and time away from distractions. When the stress piled up, I feel that God knew that we needed a break from our distractions. We weren’t miserable or crabby or worried (at least I wasn’t). I prayed for the utility workers that had to work in the rain (yeah electricity and rain there is just something scary about it – not sure why j/k) No seriously – we were inconvenienced for a night but we were safe and in no harm. And we have no idea who had to come out in the rain and ‘risk’ safety and security to restore our electricity. The simple blessings like a wood stove, a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, salad and a box of candles – allowed the basic necessities to get us through the “storm” and power outage. It wasn’t that bad and it wasn’t that dark and we weren’t alone.

 Thank you, God, for this interruption and this opportunity to get away from the distractions that have been consuming me.  The opportunity to sit in the warm glow and peaceful quiet and listen and hear your voice was just awesome. A peacful night’s rest led into another day and another opportunity to see how blessed I am  – no catastrophe, no spilled or spoiled milk and the electric bill was high anyway – it was nice to know that it was off for a few hours ;-). All we needed was the simple things, family, quietness and God.

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