Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Three Things Every Traditional Christmas Tree Must Have

Three Things Every Traditional Christmas Tree Must Have

By Roxanne Hughes Packham, Co-Author of the Hospitality Book: Inspired Design

For Photographs of these ideas and
more for Holiday design, visit www.InspiredDesignPublications.blogspot.com.

I can remember back thirty years ago, as a little girl, getting dressed up with my sister in our matching Christmas plaid dresses, getting ready for Christmas Eve dinner, and posing for pictures in front of our brick fireplace in our first house. I can still remember how excited we were for Santa Claus to come and leave presents, how much fun it was to have our crazy, loud family all together for Christmas. There are so many memories of Christmases past, but mostly the beautifully set tables and decorated trees and presents are the forefront of my memories. Our family is so much fun, and there was always so much laughter, loud and often hysterical storytelling, great food, and mostly an appreciation for our blessings, not material, but the blessing of our family.

Sometimes the decorating during the holidays gets so overwhelming, it becomes more daunting than it does desirable. You must keep in mind that for most people the memories made by Christmas past is the sweet memories that it conjures up time with family, friends, surrounded with textural delights all in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. So keep that in mind when you are breaking out the decorations that you are simply setting the backdrop for memories for family and friends, not trying to get an award for the best tabletop design in the country nor the most amazing tree in the land. Most of our deepest desires for the Christmas Season are to make a lovely, festive memorable day for our nearest and dearest.

Keep the following in mind for your tree: There is no award for the most amazing tree (that I know of), but you will touch the hearts of all who enter your home and enjoy the beauty of your tree because your tree represents your family.

~ Family ornaments!

This may be funny to some who have more than 25 years of ornaments saved and carefully packed each year. Good for you! Even if you just buy one new ornament per year on a vacation, or special event someone in your family participated in it makes such a story once the tree is fully decorated. I like to take a permanent marker and write the specific event and year on each ornament, after purchasing, in case I forget all the little details. It makes decorating the tree quite a tradition as each person takes the ornaments out of the boxes and begins to reminisce about the event or trip. Even with shiny new ornaments the old ones really give a history for the family and meaning to the tree.

~ Sparkle!

This might go without saying, but little white lights and colorful red Christmas balls really go a long way in making a Christmas tree look Christmassy! The lights reflect off the balls and the more the better, in my opinion. It is traditional for the tree to be mainly red and green. Since the tree itself is green, invest mostly in red ball ornaments. The more little white lights the better, especially important towards the back. Hang the simple round ornaments way back towards the trunk so that it sparkles all the way through. Don’t just hang the ornaments right on the front of the trees. Remember also to do a topper on the top! If yours broke, or you haven’t had one, use ribbon and make a large loopy bow and stick it almost on the very top. This one you will have to tie to the tree with the bow facing towards the front.

~ Candy Canes and Bows!

Although I often do themed trees throughout the house, it is always our big main tree that I like to be very traditional, red and green, with all the family ornaments. And, of course, no Traditional tree would be complete without candy canes and bows! Hanging the candy canes on last after the tree is decorated is the easiest, filling in every spot where there isn’t an ornament. They don’t even need a hanger, but can just be set hanging on a branch! Tying bows can be fun while watching a favorite Christmas movie or listening to your favorite Christmas music. While I know sometimes the teenagers have other things to do, they are always glad we took some time to make some more Christmas memories together. Lastly, tie the bows. I recommend something very “red & green” like polka dot ribbon with those colors, or something very Christmas-plaid! Those say Christmas-time more than any other types of bows. You can either tie the bows right onto the candy cane before you hang it, or tie the bows, and use an ornament hanger on it to hang the bow. I find it way too hard to tie the bows onto the tree.

Enjoy your time together this Christmas. Time is the most precious thing there is with loved ones! Bless someone by asking them over for simple coffee and tea, and to enjoy your beautiful Tree. Practice Hospitality, Romans 12:13! Merry Christmas!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

National Bible Week and giveaway

The role the Bible plays in the development of a Christian’s life.

Leave a comment to be entered for a giveaway - instructions at the end.

I was supposed to pick a topic to write about from a list of topics, for this week. I'm not a Bible scholar, I don't know a lot about the different translations, but I am a pastor's wife. Our church is pretty conservative compared to most others and only uses the 1611 KJV Bible. That doesn't mean we don't use other versions for study though. My husband has a massive collection of Bibles.

I memorized scripture as a child from the KJV. That was pretty much the version used when I was a child. I do remember a 4 parallel New Testament I had as a child, but I don't remember what other translations it had included, other than the KJV.

I was involved in the AWANA clubs as a child and memorized a lot of scripture. Now, as an adult I find that I still remember most of the verses I learned. Sometimes when I'm praying a verse will come to mind that's encouraging. Sometimes one just comes to me when I'm stressed or trying to talk to someone else about Christ--His goodness, His Mercy, His grace, His promises...

My children didn't have the luxury of being in AWANAs. There aren't any in the area of the country we live in. Some churches tried them, but failed for one reason or another. But the church that we are in now, encourages its youth to memorize the Bible. Every Sunday the young people from itty bitty all the way up to High School students, come up and quote a verse or a passage out loud, from memory in front of the whole church. I really think this is wonderful, as it encourages memorization and someday these same children are going to be adults, and able to recall the verses they memorized.

To recap...in the words of my husband...

The Holy Spirit will call those verses to mind in times of crisis when you don't have a Bible handy; when you need to hear from the Lord about a situation, and you don't have time to get your concordance out, or your Topical Bible, and see what God has to say about this or that, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind those things God has said, the pertain to the subject, and God's word becomes REALLY REAL to you.

I will hide thine word in mine heart that I might not sin against thee... (KJV)

v 2 Timothy 3:15-17 (CEB): “15 Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. 16 Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, 17 so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.”

v Romans 15:4 (CEB): “Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures.”

v 2 Peter 1:19-21 (CEB): 19 “In addition, we have a most reliable prophetic word, and you would do well to pay attention to it, just as you would to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Most important, you must know that no prophecy of scripture represents the prophet’s own understanding of things, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will. Instead, men and women led by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

Okay - to win a CEB of your own -

1. Leave a comment, including your contact information
2. Like CEB's Facebook page http://facebook.com/LiveTheBible for an additional entry. When you do, you’ll immediately be able to print beautiful calligraphy Bible verses. Leave another comment saying that you have.
Bonus entries:
3. Follow my blog - either this one or my book review blog - and leave another comment tell me that you're a follower.
4. Twitter about this contest - and leave another comment saying you've done it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

10 Tips for Setting a Beautiful Holiday Table

By Roxanne Hughes Packham,
Co-Author of the Hospitality Book: Inspired Design

In today’s rough economic climate, keep in mind that although I hope to inspire you to set a beautiful Thanksgiving or Christmas table the real beauty comes from the thought and love you show your friends and family. Beautiful tables comprise equal parts from the “Inspired” & the “Design” categories. See examples: http://www.inspireddesignpublications.blogspot.com/.


~Place cards
I love to use the ceramic place cards that can be written on with a wipe-off marker. You can quickly write people’s names, a favorite quote or sentiment. Friends love that you thought about them before the dinner and even something as simple as writing their names on the place cards really makes them feel remembered.

~Welcome Sign
It is so welcoming, to have a sign somewhere near the front door to greet your family and friends. From a very personal “Welcome Smith Family” or a seasonal “Merry Christmas” to “We are so glad you are here” on a casual chalkboard or an elegant mirror or glass framed, and write with a wipe-off marker, that welcome sets the tone for the rest of the event. I used an antique French cupboard door and painted it with chalkboard paint on the raised panel part.

~Quote or Scripture
The most inspirational part of the Holiday table is the beautiful quotes and scriptures. It depends on the occasion, but a quote that is either inspiring or focused on gratitude is the favorite. There is nothing like feasting your eyes, and then your thoughts, on what we can be thankful for, especially as an example for our children. Scattering them around the home (powder room, end tables, above door jam’s) is a great way to elevate your family and friends thoughts.

~Fresh Greenery
Sometimes we mistakenly think a tabletop has to have flowers as a centerpiece to be really elegant and festive. Greenery is a wonderful, fresh and festive way to make a beautiful Christmas table. Simply cut a few small twigs of trees/bushes like pine or ivy, or my favorite boxwood branches, bay tree and magnolia leaves and put them in three smaller glass or crystal vases.

No table is complete, in my opinion, with 5 to 7 little glass votives with white candles in them. The light sparkles and makes everything else on the table more beautiful and sets a soft, relaxing, often more romantic tone.

~Seasonal Piece
By seasonal I suggest a “Santa” figurine or such, a gingerbread house, or a standing cross to have in the center of the table. A clear jar of candy canes, M&M’s or such would do just fine, as well. Think: Something available only at this time of year. I usually have plenty of items in the Holiday Decor that I switch out to put on the table for each dinner.

~Napkin Rings
These can be such a pretty way to pull a linen napkin through to set on a place and make a really beautiful table setting. You can use french ribbons, or plain silver rings and they help to really make a bigger impact for an inspiring table.

~Sparkling Glasses
Whether crystal or glass, tall freshly washed glass sparkle so much with the votive candles that it is hard to wrong with this combo. A tall glass and short glass of whatever kind you like is very dramatic and beautiful, set together. Whether colored or clear the sparkle is crucial for the holiday table.

~White Plates
Although I love to use seasonal chargers and salad plates a crisp white plate is the most beautiful element to my favorite tables. They can be dressed up or down, and makes each setting look fresh and not heavy and overdone.

~Seasonal Linens
Of course, linen napkins add the most wonderful touch of elegance to any table, and Christmas plaid or red and green are no exception. My grandfather, who was a “Silversmith to the Stars”, loved a bare table with only plates (or placemats) but wasn’t a fan of covering a beautiful wood table. I have followed suit. Try leaving the wood table bare! The natural elements together is beautiful and simple.

“I tell you, the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” ~ Vincent Van Gogh

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanksgiving in Early America

Thanksgiving in Early America
by Elaine Marie Cooper

When we sit down at our Thanksgiving meal this month, we’ll be recreating a celebration that is as old as our country: sharing food with loved ones while thanking the God Who has provided the abundance.

While we understand that the First Thanksgiving was celebrated here by the Mayflower survivors along with the Indians that had helped them, the first official proclamation that was decreed to celebrate such a holiday was in 1777. It was a recommendation to the thirteen states by the Continental Congress to set aside December 18th that year as a “solemn thanksgiving” to celebrate the first major victory for the Continental troops in the American Revolution: the Battle of Saratoga.

The Battle of Saratoga has significant interest for my own family since one of my ancestors was a soldier there. But he was not on the American side—he was a British Redcoat. After surrendering to the Americans, he escaped the line of prisoners and somehow made his way to Massachusetts and into the life and heart of my fourth great-grandmother. *SIGH* L’amour!

This family story was the inspiration for my Deer Run Saga that begins in 1777 with The Road to Deer Run. There is an elaborate Thanksgiving meal scene in this novel as well as in the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run.

Some may wonder why such detail was afforded this holiday in my novels set in Massachusetts, while Christmas is barely mentioned. The reason is simple: Thanksgiving was the major holiday in the northern colonies, with Christmas considered nothing more special than a workday. According to Jack Larkin in his book, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, “The Puritan founders of New England and the Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania had deliberately abolished (holidays) as unscriptural.”

But Thanksgiving was begun as a way to give thanks to God for His provision. It usually began with attending church services in the morning, followed by an elaborate feast in the afternoon. The food for this meal was prepared for weeks in advance.

Since the individual state governors chose their own date to celebrate the holiday, it was theoretically possible for some family members—if they lived in close proximity—to celebrate multiple Thanksgiving meals with family and friends across state borders. The dates chosen could be anywhere from October to December, according to Dennis Picard, Director of the Storrowton Village Museum in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Chicken was most commonly served, said Picard, as it was readily available in the barnyard. And the oldest woman in the home had the honor of slicing the fowl for dinner.

Pies were made well in advance of the holiday and stored and became frozen in dresser drawers in unheated rooms.

“I like the idea of pulling out a dresser drawer for, say, a clean pair of socks, and finding mince pies,” said Picard, tongue in cheek.


Have a BLESSED Thanksgiving!

Author Bio

Elaine Marie Cooper
Elaine Marie Cooper grew up in Massachusetts but now lives in the Midwest with her husband, her three dogs and one huge cat. She has two married sons and triplet grandchildren who are now one years old. The Promise of Deer Run is dedicated to the triplets and to veterans who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.Elaine has been a magazine freelance writer for many years, and is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door (www.thebarndoor.net) and a blog on Christian living called Reflections In Hindsight (ReflectionsInHindsight.wordpress.com). She is the author of The Road to Deer Run and the sequel, The Promise of Deer Run. Prior to becoming an author, Elaine worked as a registered nurse.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Conquering Seasonal Depression

Conquering Seasonal Depression

The seasons are changing. We can all feel the warmth and light of the summer months giving way to a bite in the air, later sunrises and earlier sunsets. As our minds and bodies adjust to the darker, colder days, many of us fall into a bit of a winter “funk.” We might feel some pervasive sadness and anxiety. Many of us gain some weight, and our sleep cycles may even be affected.

Of course, as we are all trying to keep our spirits up during the dwindling daylight hours, we are also beginning to deal with the stress of the holidays. Christmas shopping, planning for Thanksgiving, and even decorating our houses for the holidays can add to our stress levels significantly.

These all describe what is now known as seasonal depression. While most of us only experience mild symptoms, there is a whole range of severity that we can experience. For most of us, though, managing seasonal depression can be as simple as making some lifestyle changes:

1. Get outside! As the days get shorter, many of us spend entire days never seeing the sun. Try to spend a few minutes outside each day. The sunlight can help to lift your mood.

2. Watch what you eat. Most of us begin craving carbohydrates and fatty foods as the winter months set in. Try making vegetable-heavy soups and stews instead of fatty meat-based meals.

3. Get moving! Even getting 15 minutes of exercise a day can help to raise your heart rate and will give you more energy throughout the day. Try to get some exercise during the daytime – especially first thing in the morning.

4. Spend time with your family and friends. Being with people you care about and who care about you can really help to lift your spirits. Try going for a walk with a friend, or gather your family to cook a healthy meal.

5. Take care of yourself! The season for this seasonal depression overlaps with cold and flu season. Try to avoid getting sick by washing hands frequently and eating lots of Vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits. Also make sure that you get plenty of rest when you need it, and take some time for yourself to decompress when you begin feeling overly tired or stressed.

Seasonal depression can usually be treated with a general orientation toward wellness. Occasionally, however, professional help can really help you to get through the winter months. Talk therapy or antidepressants could be helpful. If you are experiencing persistent feelings of depression that do not get better with lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor.

Emotional health is one part of the Model for Healthy living: Faith life, medical health, work, movement, emotional health, movement and nutrition. On the journey toward wellness, we work to balance each of these areas.

For more information about the Model for Healthy Living, visit www.40DaystoBetterLiving.com.

Dr. Ron McDonald, Church Health Center Pastoral Counselor

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November New Book Releases

Lots of good reading abounds for November with these selections from ACFW authors. Think Christmas shopping perhaps???

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW FictionFinder website.

A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander -- Historical Romance from Bethany House; To create something that will last is Claire Laurent's most fervent desire as an artist. It's also her greatest weakness. All that Sutton Monroe holds dear lies in ruin. He's determined to reclaim his heritage and to make the men who murdered his father pay. But what he discovers on his quest for vengeance reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined.

Bound by Grace by Amber Stockton -- Historical Romance from Barbour. When Charlotte Pringle’s father disrupts her idyllic relationship with Richard Baxton by announcing he’s been working on a marriage arrangement to secure her future, Richard despairs over the loss of the woman he’s come to love, until his niece persuades him to fight.

Fatal Reality by Jonathan Wakefield -- A Thriller/Suspense from OakTara -- In this race only the winner will be allowed to live.

Gateway Weddings; Romancing America by Myra Johnson -- A Romance from Barbour. Three Missouri women enter the gateway to life, love, and longing.

Hope and a Future by Betty Arrigotti -- Romance from OakTara; Will Marjorie Gloriam overcome her fear and trust God to be a Friend with plans to give her Hope and a Future?

I Can Do Better All By Myself by E. N. Joy, --Biblical Fiction from Urban Fiction (Kensington). The singles ministry at New Day Temple of Faith is beginning to unravel, and the pastor is considering dissolving the ministry. Some members believe the only way to hold it together is by getting their pastor to join. And why shouldn't their leader show support by joining, considering the pastor's own single status?

Katie’s Way by Marta Perry -- Romance from Praise (Penguin). A quilt shop brings Amish and Englisch together, and trouble follows...

Lonestar Angel by Colleen Coble -- Romance from Thomas Nelson. Five years ago Eden and Clay Larson's baby was stolen and never found. Eden blamed herself, Clay lost himself in work. Their young and rocky marriage ended. Or so Eden thought.

Mind Over Madi by Lynda Lee Schab -- General Fiction from OakTara; All men cheat. At least, that's what Madi's mother has always told her.

Peril by Suzanne Hartmann -- Thriller/Suspense from OakTara; A top-secret agent must trust God to protect her many secrets when she accepts high-profile assignments but can she trust Him when He leads her to reveal her secrets and takes her to death's doorstep? http://fasttrackthrillers.blogspot.com.

Promise Brides by S. Dionne Moore-- Historical Romance from Barbour; Love is the same, no matter when, no matter where-it never comes without sacrifice.

Protection for Hire by Camy Tang-- Thriller/Suspense from Zondervan; Tessa Lancaster’s skills first earned her a position as an enforcer in her uncle’s Japanese Mafia gang. Then they landed her in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Now, three months after her release, her abilities have gained her a job as bodyguard for a wealthy socialite and her three-year-old son. But there’s a problem or two … or three ….

The Land of Darkness; The Gates of Heaven Series by C.S. Lakin-- Speculative Fiction from Living Ink (AMG); Jadiel is twelve and things couldn’t get much worse—or could they?

The Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough-- Historical Romance from Moody Publishers; When Riley Morgan returns home after fighting in the War Between the States, he is excited to see his parents and fiancée again. But when he arrives he learns his life will never be the same again.

The Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson-- Historical from Zondervan; An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude a recluse. She must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.

The Rancher’s Courtship by Laurie Kingery-- Romance from Love Inspired; Though Caroline Wallace can’t have a family, she can still have a purpose. Becoming Simpson Creek’s new schoolmarm helps heal the heartache of losing Pete, her fiancé, to influenza. Then Pete’s brother arrives, trailing a herd of cattle and twin six-year-old girls.

Thyme for Love by Pamela S. Meyers--Romance & Mystery from OakTara; April Love has always dreamed of being a chef. But she didn’t expect a former fiancé or murder to be part of the recipe for her new job.

Turnabout’s Fair Play by Kaye Dacus-- Romance from Barbour; When Maureen O’Connor begins scheming to match her grandson Jamie with Flannery McNeill, the last thing she has in mind is a romance of her own.