Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's My Gift to You.

Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. ~Nicholas Berdyaev

When we worked at Faith Mission Church, the other co-associate's pastor's wife and I received an incredible gift--every week. The senior pastor's wife, Janet, fixed Sunday dinner for us. Now that would be a special gift if the food was just good. But anyone who has tasted Janet's cooking will agree that her menus are the best! Fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy. Rump roast, ham, fordhook lima beans and cheesy potatoes. Hot buttery rolls and get the picture!

Janet worked as a nurse practitioner and maintained a busy practice throughout the week. Add to that her caring ministry in the church as well as wife, mother and grandmother, and you know Sunday dinner preperation was not an easy gift.

Why did she do this for us? Her simple answer, "It's my gift to you." Beth and I were mothers with small children. Getting out the door for Sunday morning services took a lot of energy. My mind was usually on Children's church and making sure I had all the visuals, game parts, story pictures, etc. I would need. Janet's gift was one I could never repay--Sunday dinner for my family and me. Inviting our families to dinner added eight extra people to her table. But what a blessing it was.

Not only that, but it gave the pastorial families an opportunity to discuss the day's happenings. It also gave us time to tease poor Leonard if he had twisted his words while preaching. We shared burdens, laughed and sometimes cried.

Janet is retired now, Beth and her husband work with a mission group in Mexico, RB and I moved from Bedford ten years ago. But those almost nineteen years have stayed with us in the following ways:

When someone drops a piece of ice on the floor we always yell, "Beth!"

My girls think a cake isn't good without TWO cans of icing.

Cottage Cheese is on the table no matter what else is.

Every meal tastes better if you top it off with ice cream, chocolate sauce (Hershey brand only) and peanuts.

Sankey ice cream bowls are larger than Cessna ice cream bowls.

Three people can clean up a meal in ten minutes.

As for me, I've remembered those words, "It's my gift to you." Peter added "Amen" to his words: "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling...If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever." And I, too, say "Amen."

Janet's Chicken Paella

Dice into small bite size pieces and saute in 2 T of oil:

2 bonelss chicken breasts and 1 pkg of elkrich original sausage links

Cook over median heat for 20-25 minutes

Add and bring to a boil for 15-20 minutes:

2 pkgs. of Uncle Ben's long-grain and wild rice with herbs

2 cans of stewed tomatoes and 1 can of water

When most of water is absorbed and rice is cooked:

Add 1 pkg of frozen peas and cook for 5 more minutes.


Sugar Cookies:Sweet Little Lessons on Love

ENDEARMENT means, Come here, my sugar, my cookie, my sweet little morsel. ~Amy Rosenthal

I don't know how I found this adorable book by Amy Rosenthal: Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love. I saw it when browsing on Amazon. I was so delighted when it came and couldn't wait for it to find a home. I knew it needed some cookies to make it the perfect gift. I found some heart-shaped measuring spoons, to tie on top.

The Amish Sugar Cookie recipe is from my long-time friend, Sue. Her sons attended the school RB was principal of when we lived in Bedford. She knew I loved these cookies so whenever she made them she would send a few to me with her sons. Sue is so artistic with everything she touches so they were always tied with ribbon and had one of her tiny notes attached. There is a sugar cookie recipe in the back of the book, but I didn't try it since it's hard to improve on perfection. And to me, that's what the Amish cookies are to me.

The depression glass sugar bowl I use to press the cookies with was the one my mother used. It was handed down from my Grandma Cessna. I get delight by using it because of the nostalgic feeling it raises, but I also smile because every time my siblings are reminded "I have the sugar cookie bowl," I hear, "I can't believe you bummed that off mom. She loves you best." Believe me, they don't mean it, but it's fun anyway. After all, I am the one that collects pink depression glass!

Amish Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup margarine
1 cup oil
2 eggs
41/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

In large mixing bowl, cream sugars, margarine, oil and eggs together. Sift dry ingredients together, then add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, flatten with a glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about six dozen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Know Your Friends

Do give books--religious or otherwise--for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal. ~Lenore Hershey

Recently I received a book for my birthday. Now this was not just any old book. This was a book I had in my hands to purchase. It was on clearance at Hallmark--the only one. Eleanor saw the same book and told me about buying it. "I had that book in my hand, but told myself I didn't need it," I told her. When I pulled that book out of the gift bag I was so touched. (Given with a box of sugar free Russel Stover's chocolates was a bonus.) Not only did my friend remember our conversation, she gave up the book for me. Like Lenore Hershey said, Permanently personal.

We all know that the best gifts come from the heart. These gifts also come from listening. When I hear someone state a preference, I write it down in my journal (or on bulletins, slips of papers and offering envelopes) as soon as I can. I might forget that Katie loves *fudge, but my journal reminds me. Emma Jean sends out many cards... (good thinking-of-you gift...and sometimes it's fun to add stamps to the envelopes)... Connie likes Bath and Body Works' moonlight path scent... Ken likes nuts and my pumpkin roll.

And likewise, Lorna knows my delight in beautiful goblets, Renae remembers my love of all things scented for my home -- and Tazo tea, and Matilda supports my craving for 12-egg angel food cake. Last year when Emily was overwhelmed with a full schedule, Janelle surprised her with a day book. It wasn't just a lucky guess that these women gave personal gifts. They were listening, caring and remembering. I am so blessed.

Julia remembers the day a new friend brought her a bag of mint sandwich cookies to church. She said, "A sweet lady came into church this morning and gave me a big hug then handed me a bag of mint sandwich cookies. What really touched me about this gift of kindness is the fact that this lady had not been attending our church very long. I'm not sure how she even knows that I love, love, love mint sandwich cookies. Somewhere along the line I must have told the ladies about my cookie love. But it feels so good to be loved and have some desire to know me enough to pay attention to the details." Know your friends!

How like our Best Friend who gives us good gifts daily. Underserving gifts. Good and perfect gifts. Our sweet Landon is in a wedding this afternoon, pulling two little girls in a wagon. His older brother stood watching him open a gift from the bride and groom. "I have an idea, Landon. We could share it." Landon will share, as should we. When God gives good things to us, it is our responsibility--and yes, our joy--to share with others.


*I used the knowledge of Katie's love of fudge to make these fudge hearts. Just pour your fudge on a cookie sheet and cut out with a cookie cutter. Since it was a bridal shower I added the pink icing flowers.

I wanted to show you a project out of the book Eleanor gave me. I set out to find a teacup and saucer but didn't find one I liked. This china Ooh la la cup caught my eye. Such a fun cup. The spoon is pewter colored and at the top of the handle has a band of embossed silver. The cost of the gift? $5.25 plus cookies. I used Amish Sugar cookies because I was making them for another gift.

Amish Sugar Cookies
1 cup sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup margarine
1 cup oil
2 eggs
41/2 cups flour
1 tsp soda
1 tsp cream of tarter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt

In large mixing bowl, cream sugars, margarine, oil and eggs together. Sift dry ingredients together, then add to creamed mixture. Blend well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, flatten with a glass dipped in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about six dozen.  


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sheltering sisters

Bless you, my darling, and remember you are always in the heart--oh tucked so close there is no chance of escape--of your sister.
~Katherine Mansfield

She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child. ~Barbara Alpert

I just stood there giggling at the steaming iron. It seems the most ironic memories flood your mind at the least expected times. I looked down at my wrinkled uniform skirt that I was simultaneously wearing and ironing. De`javu attacked me and suddenly I became my sister as I saw a mini me looking up at, well, me. I remembered the day I stared up at my "sissy" and saw her ironing her own skirt she was wearing, warning me, "Emily, don't ever do this." Our very own sister-bonding, "Children don't try this at home" moment.

I finished "ironing" my skirt, unplugged the iron, (you're welcome, Dad!) and ran out the door, coming to the realization that my sister knew what she was talking about. And I probably should have heeded her advice. Ouch.

What are sisters for if not for sheltering? Sometimes you need to reach your leaves out to catch the dust from falling on your very own family members. I had the distinct pleasure to do a little sheltering this summer to one of my most favorite people ever. Technically one and one half of my favorite people ever.
Melanie had an extremely rough summer. I don't know how she was able to stand the bouts of nausea or the pain she was in. She was a trooper. But it just about killed her to clean her house.(Which, if you know her, you know it is kept spotless and beautiful!) So I stepped in to do what little I could to help. A little dusting, a little sweeping, a little warming up of hotdogs! She had kept it up wonderfully before her bedridden state, so my "helping" wasn't some grand act of greatness. It was just something small I could do for someone I loved very dearly to make her feel a little more at ease.

Melanie was a very gracious shelteree. (Is that a word? Oh, well. It is now!) She would do all she could to help me, paying no attention to my pleas for her to Go Rest and Don't overdo it.

Something happened that summer. I found myself being sheltered in becoming closer to my sister. I enjoyed the time I spent with her more than words on a page can describe. Such a beautiful, wonderful woman of God, and I had the honor of spending time, sheltering her...oh! And it makes it a little extra-special knowing that the person you're sheltering is in return sheltering your unborn nephew. Prettyyyy cool indeed!

Love you, Sissy.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rainbow of Friendship for Tweens

A friend is like a rainbow. They brighten your life when you've been through a storm.

Finding a friend is like finding a rainbow. Friends listen to us when we need to talk, they help us study if we just can't get that math concept, and they giggle with us when we're feeling crazy. Are any of your friends identical? Probably not. They were either born on a different day or they have different names. One may like to roller blade while another likes to read. You may have one friend who likes to collect business cards and another who collects key chains. That's what makes each friend special.
When my daughter, Emily, was a tween she wrote, "Sarah likes horses, horses and horses. Casey is artistic and would rather draw than anything. Joy is always messing with her hair, trying different hairstyles. They're all different. Cool, huh?"
Marcy Reeves said, "Rainbows, like people, have many colors and personalities." Do you have a rainbow of friends? What color are your friends?
Red: Courageous, loves dares and doesn't frighten easily.
Orange: Productive, gets things done.
Yellow: Alert and focused, studies a lot.
Green: Extra-friendly, never met a stranger
Blue: Peaceful, stays calm in any situation.
Indigo: Heals, the caring one.
Violet: Creative, comes up with the inspiration for a project. Has a great imagination.

~Make a Rainbow Purse Dangle for your friend.~
You will need rainbow colored ribbon, a small ring and scissors.

Cut ribbon in 8" lengths. Place both ends together, making a loop at the other end. Insert that loop into top of ring, wrap it over the ribbon ends and pull tight.
I made one with fabric ribbon and one with package curly ribbon. You'll need to cut the curly ribbon into 10" pieces so you can curl the ends.

Give the dangle to your friend with this poem:

In the rainbow of my friends,
You have a special place.
Tucked amid the colors,
I see your smiling face.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Feeling at Home--Away from Home

All that this world knows of living lies in giving--and more giving;
He that keeps, be sure he loses--Friendship grows by what it uses. ~Alexander MacLaren

One of my highest marks after taking the Five Love Languages Test is in "Receiving Gifts." Combine this with the fact that my mother, along with her mother, feel the same about receiving gifts and you will see that I get a bit excited about, well, gifts. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that I feel others should enjoy receiving gifts.

Whenever guests stay overnight, I always enjoy making sure they feel welcome, at home and extra special. Making sure they have their own note and gift on their bed helps me get this point across. Take a look at the gift that welcomed our most recent company.

Since it is fall (and our house is surrounded by trees and fallen leaves), choosing a theme was a no-brainer. A little twine and a couple fake leaves (hole punched) helped to complete this look. I also had some handmade coffee-stained gift cards left from last year that I used for the note. Shawn's Aunt Regina---who, I might add, is incredibly talented in making you feel special with her own ideas you'll find at their Serenity Log Cabins, was so thrilled about her gift. I wasn't on the receiving end of the actual material gift, but being the recipient of the kind words and hearing the excitement in her voice as she thanked me--that was a gift to me.

So I will leaf you with this challenge: Fall into giving with me! And for those who appreciate optimism I will go ahead and add--Thanks for giving!

Other "gift on the bed" ideas:

Bottled water and Granola Bars

Color-coordinated Goodies--Box of Milk Duds for parents (yellow box) and Rubber Duckies for small children, wrapped with multiple colors of curly ribbon.

  • You can never go wrong with CANDY for the men...the ladies love socks, candles, lotion, magazines, etc.
  • Target has the fabulous Dollar Spot which is great for this kind of gift giving.