The Christmas Party

I hope you all had warm and wonderful Christmas celebrations.  Amoeba and I were busy on Christmas Eve with both church services.  Amoeba played his horns and sang (Praise Band for the first service, choir for the second).  I ran the new audio-visual set up for the second service.  Man that tech is sweet!  I wanna get me that!  It was all Mac — a 28 inch monitor, a blue tooth key board and the most responsive little mouse ever.

Above the fireplace I hung a swag of garland and decorated it with large red jingle bells.

Christmas Day we slept in, then had a lovely bacon and egg breakfast — treats not often on our menu.  Then we lazed around.  Amoeba watched some sports on TV.  I read a novel in front of the fire.  Later we had a nice meatloaf dinner with cheesy mashed potatoes, then we (mostly Amoeba, I read for awhile more, too) worked on the Christmas Tree puzzle until bed time.  It was quiet and pieceful (pun intended).

Here is our coffee table, decorated for the occasion. This table is the most recent item added to our decor. I bought it at the second hand store the afternoon before the party. I have been searching for months for the perfect table, and here it is. Mona (she of the coffee shop) ordered me to go to the second-hand store. I told her I didn't have time. She said, "Howard has new stuff, and believe me, you have to see it." I wasn't going to go. Mona told me if it was still there after the party and I saw it, I would be furious for not having gotten it sooner -- but she wouldn't tell me what IT was. I stomped over to the shop ... and promptly told Howard to wrap it up and toss it in my car! Mona has been helping me table shop and she knew this was exactly what I wanted.

But what you really want to hear about was our Christmas party.  We were pleased with the turn out.  Judging by the compliments still coming in, our guests were quite pleased with it, too.  I have had several of the women say I made the party look easy.  Of course, I did a lot of the prep work the day before — and for the party itself I recruited a couple of friends to help get everything sat out so when the guests arrived we could look relaxed and serene.

These packages above the entry closet got a lot of attention and compliments. One of Amoeba's colleagues wanted to know if I had to put the presents up there to keep Amoeba from peeking. Everyone was saddened to hear they are just pretty, empty boxes. The bag is full though -- it has a 3-Pack of Kleenex in it! I couldn't make it stand up without adding weight.

I set up the buffet table with hot plates and crock pots so it was self-monitoring. I had 8 pounds of meatballs (store bought but simmering in my own, homemade marinara) and 5 pounds of chicken wings, 50 bacon wrapped crab balls (made with imitation crab since I didn’t have medical records on all of my guests), both potato and mac salad, Summer sausage, assorted cheeses, veggies, dips, and crackers, hot cider, coffee and tea (hot & iced) and one guest brought sparkling cider. There were peanuts, pretzels, Chex Mix, olives, sweet & dill pickles, assorted cookies … a small mountain of food. I kept worrying about what we’d do with the leftovers, but there weren’t enough leftovers to worry about!

Pine garland, lights, and ornaments on top of the 3/4 wall surrounding my kitchen.

I figured the approximate number of guests by counting plates — I bought 96 and had 48 left. Five or six of the guests didn’t eat because they were just coming from or heading to meals. Our next-door neighbor came but she didn’t eat, either. It was her son’s 18th birthday and they were having their own big bash. And, of course, a few people could have used more than one plate. We estimate 50-60 people came through the house in about 4 hours. I wish I had thought to have a guest book!

Pine garland, lights and ornaments viewed from the living room side.

We had a basket with brand new activity books, crayons, and pencils for the kids.  There were also a couple of stuffed animals and an Etch-A-Sketch.  I don’t think a kid ever got to touch the Etch-A-Sketch, but it was a sure hit with the adults.

The Pine Garland viewed from the hall.

We also set the card table up, covered it with a red plastic table cloth and put a 1000 piece border-less puzzle out.   Several of the guests worked on it.  And we gave impromptu tours of the house.  Of course the kitchen and the master bath were the two favorite features.  I had several people ask if we needed house-sitters when we travel.  They were all female and eying the bathtub when they asked.

Three of our guests, Rosalie, Allison, and John, working on the puzzle.

We even had a bit of music.  Jim brought out his guitar and harmonica.  Amoeba got his horn.  They played together and Jim  even sang a couple of tunes.  According to the comments we received, a good time was had by all.

Jim and Amoeba making good music.

This is a horrid photo of Jim. My apologies. Some of you might remember him from another party post here.  He wasn’t quite as Christmas “clean-cut” then.

Love

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom”! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL … there’s also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls – a tangible reminder of God’s grace to us all.

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Love
by Lauraine Snelling

When asked to write a Christmas message, one of my first thoughts was Do I climb up on my soapbox regarding changing the words in Christmas songs, using only holiday, etc. I thought about it and decided no. After all, they’re only words and what difference does a word make—really make after all?

Then I kept on thinking. If they’re only words… But we as writers know the power of words, as do readers. When the wrong word is used, it jars, while the right word can be most powerful. Take one highly overused and under practiced word—Love. Four letters is all. We toss it around so glibly, saying love ya and luv and love. But think about the power in I love you. Three of the most precious words in our language when put together. Those of us who write romances or books with romance in them, understand the power when one of our characters tells another, I love you. As humans we can never hear that enough or too much.

Christmas is about love. The greatest love story ever told, that of God for us humans, and it never changes. Customs change, politics change, the years change but God’s love never, ever does. At Christmas we are invited to share that love, to give it away, to pass it around. To find wonder again and joy in simple acts of love. We make contact with people we might never see or talk with through the year. That says I love you. We buy and make gifts to give, we reach out to strangers in need, we try to make sure everyone has a special dinner and every child a present. By giving, we receive.

So, let’s use the power words, but more so, put feet on those words and pass the love around. Let’s look for and find the wonder, the joy and the peace, maybe in small bits and pieces and perhaps in an avalanche of blessings. Make your days brighter with the simple gift of a smile, a kind word, a touch, for every single one that you give away, will come back to you multiplied. As you give, so shall you receive. Merry Christmas my friends. May we all recognize our blessings—-and let an attitude of gratitude permeate this holiday and every day. With love and joy on this day, Lauraine!

~~~

About Lauraine: Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of more than sixty books, with sales of over 2 million copies. She also writes for a wide range of magazines, and helps others reach their writing dreams by teaching at writer’s conferences across the country. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a cockatiel named Bidley, and a watchdog Basset named Chewy.

For more information please visit Lauraine’s website: www.laurainesnelling.com.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

An Unforgettable Gift

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom”! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL … there’s also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls – a tangible reminder of God’s grace to us all.

~~~

An Unforgettable Gift
by Karen O’Connor

On Christmas morning, 1912, in Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Charlie Flowers and his three brothers and two sisters huddled in their beds, fully dressed, trying to keep warm as the wind howled outside their small frame house.

It was a desperate time for the family. Earlier that year the children’s father had died. And their mother had not found work. The coal had run out and there was little money––none for gifts. Their scrawny tree with decorations made from scraps of colored paper had been given to them the night before by a local merchant.

“Can’t sell this one,” the man said with a nod of his head before handing it over to the eager children.

To pass the time, the siblings joked and shouted stories from their bedrooms across the hallway from one another. Then suddenly a racket from the alley at the rear of the house broke into their games.

“Charlie,” his mother called, “would you see what’s going on out there?”

Charlie pulled on his shoes, grabbed a thick overcoat from the hook by the door, and ran out back.

There stood a man in a wagon bent over a load of coal, shoveling it into the shed as fast as he could.

“Hey Mister, we didn’t order any coal,” Charlie shouted. “You’re delivering it to the wrong house.”

“Your name’s Flowers, isn’t it?” the man asked, still shoveling.

Charlie nodded yes.

“Well then, there’s no mistake.  I’ve been asked to deliver this to your family on Christmas morning.” He looked the awe-struck boy square in the eye. “And I’m under strict orders not to tell who sent it,” he teased.

Charlie ran into the house, his coattail flapping in the cold morning wind.  He could hardly wait to tell his mother and brothers and sisters. God had provided––just as he had on that first Christmas morning so long ago when He sent his only son to a needy world.

Charlie Flowers died in 1994 at age 96. And right up to the last year of his life, not a Christmas went by that he didn’t tell the story of that sub-zero Christmas morning of his boyhood when two men gave his family an unforgettable gift.

It wasn’t the coal that was remembered or cherished, Charlie often said––welcome as it was––but rather what two men brought to his desperate family. One, for his gift of recognizing their great need and taking the time to do something about it. And the other, for being willing to give up part of his own Christmas morning to deliver it.

That gift of so long ago has continued to warm the Flowers family from one generation to another, as Charlie’s son––my husband, Charles––calls to mind these two unknown men each Christmas morning and whispers a prayer of thanks.

~~~

About Karen: Karen O’Connor is an award-winning author and writing mentor living in Watsonville, California with her husband, Charles Flowers. Karen’s latest book is 365 Reasons Why Gettin’ Old Ain’t So Bad (Harvest House 2010).

For more information, please visit Karen on the web at www.karenoconnor.com.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

Just Give Me Christmas this year!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom”! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL … there’s also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls – a tangible reminder of God’s grace to us all.

~~~

All I Want for Christmas…
Is to be able to have Christmas this Year
by
Melissa Mashburn

This is a simple request, isn’t it? In the previous years, we had great big bountiful Christmases with our family. Gifts, goodies and general Christmas cheer but this year it was different. The year before has been chock full of disappointments, failing businesses and severe cutbacks for our family.

Sitting with my husband one night we hammered out the bare minimum that we could spend that year for Christmas and even still the total was four hundred dollars. It does not sound like a whole lot compared to what we’ve spent on Christmas before, but this year it could have been four thousand dollars because we just did not have it.

We prayed, I cried, we prayed some more and decided that we would cut back anything else that we could that year so we could have Christmas for our kids. We did not know how we would make this happen, but we knew that we needed to step forward in faith that it would happen.

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God. Galatians 3:5 the Message

Not even two days later, we hear a knock on our front door. We open the door to see some friends of ours from church. With tears in their eyes, they handed us an envelope and said that the felt they needed to give us this. We opened the envelope and inside there was four hundred dollars cash.

Shocked, stunned and with tears flowing down our face we just sat there in a state of crying and laughing at what God had done. We never shared with anyone that year what we needed, how bad it was, what was going on or what that number was for us to have Christmas for the kids, but God knew.

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

He took a willing servant, led them to our front door and changed Christmas for us that year. After many years of being in full time ministry we knew that God would provide, but when He shows up just at the right moment, you know that it was all a part of His plan to show how much He loves, provides and cares for His people.

Father God, thank you that after all the years of serving and loving you in ministry that you continue to teach, guide, love, shepherd and care for us.  You, Father, are abundantly gracious and kind, thank you for showing up for us at just the right moment every time, forgive us when we forget that.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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About Melissa: Melissa is the founder of the blog Mel’s World Ministry, co-founder of the Praise and Coffee Nights Ministry with Sue Cramer, Kids Ministry Director at her church.  Just last year she launched a new weekly series called Godly Gals ~ Real Women, Real Life, Real Faith where we meet new women each week who are “Taking their everyday, ordinary lives and placing it as their offering to God.” Romans 12:1 the Message. You can find her on twitter and at her blog. She loves encouraging women to live with an authentic faith by being transparent, renewed and transformed. ~ Romans 12:2.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info

What’s the best thing about Christmas?

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas “Pearls of Wisdom”! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL … there’s also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls – a tangible reminder of God’s grace to us all.

~~~

What’s the best thing about Christmas?
by Maureen Lang

The answer to that question will undoubtedly be different depending on the age and the faith of the person being asked. Most children will say it’s all about the gifts. Adults, even if they secretly still enjoy the gifts, will probably strive to sound more mature and say the holiday is all about friends and family. Still others might say it’s about tradition, or memories or the music or even the special food we connect to this time of year. The scrooges among us might say this season is just another marketing gimmick, or materialism gone awry. The faithful will say it’s all about Jesus, a reminder of why He shed the glory of Heaven to step into human skin and frailty.

I’m not here to defend or attack any answer to this question, but rather to ponder those possible answers.

Gifts: They touch us in personal ways, as tangible evidence of someone else’s thought and affection. Even if we don’t get exactly what we hoped, there’s something to be said about the thought behind a gift being the important part. Why wouldn’t gifts be an important and valid part of this holiday in which we celebrate God’s gift of salvation?

Holiday Gatherings: Parties might be a lot of work, forcing some out of their comfort zone, but at the core they’re all about human connection. Isn’t that what most people want?

Traditions and memories: They remind us of the past, of who we are, with the hope that even as we look forward to an unknown future we still hold some things worthy enough to repeat every year. We might find ourselves letting go of some traditions, or we might want to start some new ones.

The music: This is the only time of the year when even secular radio stations welcome songs about a baby born in Bethlehem. As a nation we may be getting stringent about separation of church as state, but the lines blur just a bit with old favorites that reflect this season.

Scrooges: The holiday season is probably a time to endure rather than enjoy, but even the scroogiest-scrooge might admit the lights of the season are pretty to behold. They’re free to look at, after all.

As for the food, the busyness, the expense and all the other things that make up this season: keep in mind that it’s all temporary. This, too, shall pass. Until next year, of course.

I’ll leave you with this thought: we are all made in God’s image, whether we believe that or not. Part of that image is the ability to give—and to receive. So here’s my thought for the day: stop a moment and dwell on all the gifts of the season. From the little mementos that say we haven’t forgotten someone or been forgotten by others, to the costliest gift of all: what God did for us in the form of Christ. As you enjoy the sounds, the sights, the scents and the tastes of this season, may your only trouble be in choosing just one thing among so many best things about Christmas.

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About Maureen: Maureen Lang is the author of ten books, her most recent from Tyndale House is The Great War Series which are full of romance, adventure and spiritual journeys. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and their lovable Labrador Retriever.

For more information please visit Maureen at her website, www.maureenlang.com.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year’s Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog (http://margaretmcsweeney.blogspot.com) on New Years Day!

12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit www.pearlgirls.info