Thursday, December 14, 2017

Grace at Home No. 278


Welcome, welcome! I'm so grateful you're here for this week's Grace at Home party! We're now halfway through the season of Advent, and I hope your season of waiting and watching has been a fruitful one.

There were so many delightful holiday posts in last week's selection of links. Here are some highlights:

Kendra at Joy in Our Home shared some ways she updated the Christmas decor in her home for very little money. You'll enjoy seeing what she's done.


Lori at Dining Delight showed us the way she decorated a sideboard in her kitchen. So much Christmas goodness in one spot!


Eilis at My Heart Lives Here decided to create a calm, cozy look for Christmas at her house. Check it out!

Sweet Penny at Penny's Vintage Home goes all out with her decorating. She even decorated her darling "she shed" for Christmas. Take a look!


If you're looking for a yummy treat to make and share this season, you'll want to see how Theresa from Shoestring Elegance makes her rocky road fudge.



And if you've been feeling guilty about things you've done or left undone this season, you might want to read my post, "Lessons from a Christmas Tree." You'll see our Christmas tree and I hope you'll be encouraged by what I've learned.


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lessons from a Christmas tree


If you rang my doorbell, here's what you'd see when I opened the door to you:




We aren't terribly fashionable around here. We have just one tree, which stands in the corner of our living room.



Our tree is filled with ornaments old and new, most of them loaded with meaning or memories or both.

The oldest ornament on the tree is this stained "glass" angel my Aunt Marjorie made for me in the late 1960's. My angel holds court beside an ornament from 1991, the year my oldest son was born.




Another of my most precious ornaments is this handmade snowflake that frames a photo of my mother when she was a tiny girl. But you'll notice BB8 from Star Wars hangs just beside her.


And so it goes all around the tree: the old mixed with the new, the precious with the cheap, the sacred with the secular. Not fancy or fashionable, but just right for us.




What these photos don't show you is that lurking in the corner of the living room are bins of Christmas decorations. See?


At first, as I considered the fact that my Christmas decor is still a work in progress, I thought to myself, "I feel guilty that I haven't already finished the decorating and put all the boxes away."

And then I realized how many times over the past few days I've heard people speak of feeling guilty.

"I feel guilty that I didn't put up a tree this year," or "I feel guilty that our tree is artificial," or "I feel guilty that we cut down a live tree for Christmas."

"I feel guilty that I haven't made any Christmas cookies," or "I feel guilty that I've eaten too many Christmas cookies."

"I feel guilty that I can't give my kids what they want for Christmas," or "I feel guilty that I've bought my kids too much for Christmas."

Is there no end to it?

Of course, we feel guilty because we are guilty, and we know it. Every single one us is flawed. We all come up short. Not one of us is perfect.


But the very reason we celebrate Christmas is that the Lord of all Creation loved us enough to save us. He didn't leave us in our flaws and shortcomings. The Christ of Christmas is the One who came to earth and lived as a human in order to show us what a life without shortcomings would look like. And then He gave up his life in order for us to released from the guilt of our own sins and to live in freedom.

I think the words of the old hymn put it best:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free--
For God, the just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.*

Full of shortcomings though we are, our guilt has been taken away--cleansed by the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.  Because of Jesus, we can live a life that's no longer ruled by sin.

Christ was born to give us life that is truly life.

My prayer this season is that your Christmas tree be more than a symbol of beauty and merriment. May it be a tree of life for you.



*"Before the Throne of God Above" by C.L. Bancroft


I'm joining these fun parties:
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Grace at Home No. 277


Hello, friends, and welcome to this week's Grace at Home party! I'm so glad you're here! I pray that your December is off to a good start and that you're able to enjoy this special season.

Last week's party was full of Christmasy goodness. Here are a few highlights.

Laura at Decor to Adore built a birch log insert for her fireplace. She wasn't fond of the look of her fireplace, but just look at it now!


Rita at Panoply showed us the way decorated her sunroom for Christmas. If you like traditional Christmas decor as much as I do, I know you'll enjoy visiting Rita.


Debbie at Debbie-Dabble goes all out for Christmas. You'll love seeing the way she decorates her home with such love and joy.


You'll be inspired by this table setting from Fabby at Fabby's Living. Fabby hosts a monthly prayer luncheon where a group of faithful women gather to pray the rosary. Such a wonderful tradition!


Eileen at Just Measuring Up shared a wonderful gift idea for children: a cookie decorating box! She shares all the details for making your own.


Yvonne Chase, the Single Women's Cheerleader, shared some thought-provoking wisdom about "missing tile syndrome"–and it applies to all of us, not just to single women!


As for me, I'm starting December a little more slowly, trying to soak in the Advent season. When it comes to waiting, I have a lot to learn! I'd love for you to read my reflection on learning to wait.


A big thank you to everyone who joined last week's party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!

Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent: Learning to Wait


Every few years, some kind of small appliance emerges as the latest and greatest holiday gift. From the Vegomatic to the Fry Daddy to the George Foreman grill—there’s always something that promises great returns for the home cook. This year is no exception. The latest craze? The Instant Pot, a countertop gadget that will cook food in a fraction of the time of other methods.

That’s not really surprising, is it? Nobody likes to wait. We get out of it whenever we can. We drive on expressways, choose the express lane at the grocery store, and pay extra for express shipping.

Like it or not, though, this kind of waiting is part of life. Slow-moving traffic or cash register lines might be irritating, but mostly they just try our patience.


Another kind of waiting, though, requires a lot more than patience.

Prisoners wait to be set free.
 Chronically ill patients wait to be healed.
  Refugees wait to return home.
   Separated families wait to be reunited.
    Those in danger wait to be rescued.

That kind of waiting takes courage—courage to remain strong and faithful, no matter how long the waiting takes.

The ancient Israelites knew a lot about that kind of waiting. Long promised a Messiah, they endured centuries of hardship. Siege. Destruction. Exile. Slavery. No wonder the psalmist sang:

“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24 ESV)

Hope is what fueled their courage: hope for the coming of the Messiah, hope for the fulfillment of all of God’s promises.

In the book of Lamentations we read:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
  the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
  and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
  and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
  for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
  great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
  therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
  to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:19-26, NIV)

The season of Advent is about waiting. As we live on this side of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it’s easy for us to distance ourselves from the Israelites. We know that the promised Messiah came. With the angels we sing “Glory to God in the highest!” We live in the light of the Incarnation.

But in a needful and powerful way, Advent links our hearts to the hearts of God’s people who longed for the coming of the Savior. As we survey the carnage of a world wracked with sin, we pine for the second coming of the Savior, when everything wrong will be set right.

We watch. We wait. We long for the day when all will be well. Even now we run on the fuel of hope. And like always, hope comes from the same source. The Lord’s mercies are still new every morning. He is eternally good to those whose hope is in him.

From this hope we take courage. This Advent season, let’s encourage one another. Perhaps these words of Paul’s could be our prayer for each other: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13, NIV)

God, help us to wait with the sure knowledge of your steadfast love.

I'm joining Jennifer Dukes Lee for Share His Story.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Grace at Home No. 276


Hello and welcome to the Grace at Home party! I'm so grateful you're here.

Today is the last day of November! Can you believe that Advent is upon us, and Christmas is fast approaching? This year has flown by so quickly.

Here are some links from our last party that caught my eye.

Sheri from Hazel + Gold Designs created a rustic wood customizable Advent calendar. This is so clever: it's designed with 25 hooks to hold whatever you'd like to attach. Advent begins tomorrow, but if you'd like to make one you might have to start using it a little late, but it's still worth showing you.


Chas from Chas' Crazy Creations made a custom gift by transferring an old recipe card onto a dish towel. This fall I created a sentimental Christmas ornament from one of my mom's old hand-written recipes; maybe I should make a dish towel next! Chas gives step-by-step instructions for how to create your own.


Another easy Christmas idea came from Victoria at Dazzle While Frazzled. She decoupaged a doily to the bottom of a clear glass plate to create a darling cookie plate for gift-giving. Brilliant! See her post for full instructions.


Michele Morin at Living Our Days was inspired by Sharon Miller's new book, Free of Me, and shared some wonderful insights about making our lives about God instead of ourselves.


As for me, I shared what my Christmas decorating looks like in real life—and how I'm learning that it's fine for me to proceed in my own way rather than in Pinterest-perfect loveliness. I'd love to know what you think!



A big thank you to everyone who joined the last party!  I'm so grateful for each person who links up each week. If you've been featured, feel free to grab the "I was featured" button.  I'd be so proud if you displayed it!


Now for this week's party!  Grace at Home is a place for you to share anything related to making your home a place of grace. I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!





Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Real-life Christmas preparations


"It's the most wonderful time of the year!" Perry Como's voice singing those words is one of my favorite things. Thanksgiving is past, and now it's time to turn our attention to preparations for Christmas. How exciting!

Today I'd like to show you what I've already accomplished with decorating for Christmas.

Well, that's what I would like to show you.  The problem is, I haven't really accomplished anything yet.

It's not that I haven't started. I've managed to put up the tree in the living room:



And I can see from this photo that the tree is leaning to the right a bit, isn't it? Oh dear.

It's not that I'm not looking forward to decorating for Christmas. It's just that I am disorganized and messy. So here's the truth about my Christmas decorating so far:



That's my guest room at the moment. As you can see, the makings of my Christmas decor are currently strewn all over the place. A discerning eye might even catch that my Fall decor is still waiting to be put in the attic.

Now, here's how I want you to see this room, the way it looks when it's all fixed up for guests:



Actually, that's not quite how it looks. I stole a piece of furniture from this room, so things are a little different now. And I had to take out the pretty rug because the dog peed on it. So there's that.

It can be so tempting to try to present only magazine-worthy loveliness on my blog. And I do love to make things pretty and to share ideas. But over this past year I've found that presenting only loveliness doesn't sit quite right with my spirit.

You want to know a secret? A few weeks ago the city of Durham turned off my water. Why? Because I'd lost the water bill and didn't see the warning letter they sent. Thank God I could pay the bill, so my water service was promptly restored, but if you'd seen my house on that day without water things surely wouldn't have looked too magazine-worthy.

That incident reminded me of the time that a good friend told me that there had been a mix-up with her utility bill and that her gas had been shut off. I sympathized with her having to deal with this inconvenience, but secretly I wanted to jump up and down and say, "Thank God! I'm not the only one!"

Maybe you don't have any organizational issues. Maybe you're a person who is naturally tidy and put-together. If so, I admire you greatly. The truth is that I wish I were like you.

But here's another truth, one that I need to learn more fully:

God doesn't wish I were like you. He doesn't wish that I were like anyone but me. He loves me just the way I am. He'll take me just like this—piles of stuff, lost utility bills, and all. Certainly God wants to transform my heart so that I'm more and more like Jesus—but He still wants me to be me. The real me. And that's how He feels about you, too!

So here's to real life: the beautiful and the messy, the organized and the disorganized.

I hope that by next week I will have some beautiful Christmas decor to share with you.  For now, I'll just share this beautiful thought:



Tell me--are you the organized type? Or do you struggle like I do? Do you have "real life" scenes that aren't so pretty?  I'd love to know!


I'm joining these wonderful parties: