Saturday, December 31, 2011

My favorite posts of 2011

As 2011 draws rapidly to a close, I find myself thinking about this past year at Imparting Grace. I can scarcely contain my gratitude to have been part of the blogging community this year! What joy I've derived from friendships with the wonderful people who are part of this blog--those who drop by occasionally, those who visit often, and those who read every post. I am reminded of the words of Alfred, Lord Tennyson: "I am a part of all that I have met." Who would have ever believed that so many of us could meet in the blogosphere? What a blessing!

If you're interested in strolling down Memory Lane with me, here are a few of my favorite posts of the year.

Thoughts from a Blogging Mother

This Week in History

Expert Advice: The Key to a Good Marriage

Long Days, Short Years

Lessons from a Fire Hydrant

My Inner Martha


To you, my blogging friends:

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" (Philippians 1:3).

**What were some of your favorite moments in 2011?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011

As this year draws to a close, I find myself grateful that the calendar is about to turn. My biggest memories from this year will definitely be my husband's open-heart surgery in April and his subsequent re-hospitalization in May, capped off by my son's emergency surgery in November. Whew! We're thankful that all of us are healthy here at the end of the year!

Of course this year has also included some fun memories, like my middle son's high school graduation and his going off to college. I think I've laughed more and cried more this year than ever before!

As I looked back over my posts for the year, though, I remembered that I did manage to complete some fun projects. Here are a few of my favorites:

No-Sew Faux Roman Shade


Table Transformation


Leaving a Red Dining Room Behind


What about you? Was 2011 a year of big accomplishments for you? What was your favorite project? I'd love to know!

I'm joining Rhoda's party at Southern Hospitality. She's been the best example of grace in 2011. Blessings, Rhoda!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas haul

I can scarcely believe all I got for Christmas, but I'd like to share with you. The list is just too exciting to keep to myself! I got

Love


Peace


Joy


Patience


Kindness


Goodness


Faithfulness


Gentleness


Self-Control


Sound too good to be true? Well, I haven't received large portions of all of these yet. But this is what I'm getting. These are the things that are being given to me--the fruit of the Spirit of the Lord that lives within me--all because of the greatest gift ever given (Galatians 5:22).


Jesus.

The same gift was given to you, too. So even though the "big day" is over, we still celebrate Christmas.

"I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).

What did you get for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reflections on a Christmas tree

Today is December 21, and our Christmas tree is STILL only partially decorated. Perhaps you're not quite finished decorating, either. If so, you might enjoy this reflection I wrote last December.

As I considered the fact that our Christmas tree is still not finished, I thought to myself, "I feel guilty that we 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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Home for the Holy Days

Christmas is coming! Folks all over the world are preparing to celebrate what for many is the most wonderful time of the year. "Happy holidays!" we say, often forgetting that the very word holiday is derived from Old English words for "holy day."

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With all the busy-ness of preparing for our Christmas celebrations, though, it can be easy for us to miss the awe-inspiring holiness of Christmastime. Many traditions are connected to Christmastime, but none more important than the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Here are a few things we do to keep our focus on Christ at Christmas.

Our Christmas decorations are centered in our living room, which is where most of my cross collection is found.


One of the first things we put out every year is this Nativity set. It's an inexpensive porcelain set we purchased when our sons were very small. These figures have moved with us five times, and so far nothing has broken. I like displaying it here by the crosses, commemorating both the birth and the death of Jesus.


Other Nativity scenes can be found in our decorations, too, like this primitive wooden one:


It's on display in our living room, too. If you look closely, you can see that the figures are hot-glued onto the stable floor. I don't remember when I did that; I'm sure it's when the boys were very young.


This year we added these Nativity candles from DaySpring; aren't they beautiful? (I read about these at Nesting Place and ordered them from DaySpring.com; I'm not sure if they're still available.)


When my boys were small, we read lots of Christmas books. The boys loved books about Santa and Rudolph, of course, but they also loved B is for Bethlehem, The Legend of the Candy Cane, and The Crippled Lamb. Whenever I read The Crippled Lamb, one of the boys would look at me as I turned each page--to see if I was crying yet. They knew what was coming! I still get these books out each Christmas, and I read them again myself.

One of the most important things we do to keep Christ first and foremost in our Christmas celebrations is to gather with our church family. Our church's assistant pastor, Chris Breslin, wrote a Advent devotional book this year, and he told me that I could share it with you. If you need a good Advent devotional, click here to download one free of charge. There's also a kids' Advent devotional book. I get to help plan our church's candlelight Christmas Eve service, which is one of the most meaningful services of the year.

What do you do to keep the focus on Christ at Christmastime? Link a post about your Christmas decor, traditions, favorite books--anything that's special to you. If you've written a a Christmas devotional, I'd love to read that, too! Be sure to link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. And please include a link to this party. (If you don't have a blog, feel free to link to a Facebook post or leave a comment describing your traditions--I'd love to hear from you!)





Friday, December 16, 2011

My favorite things

Melissa at 320 Sycamore is having her annual "My Favorite Things" party today. It's such fun to see what people like!

Now that winter's here, my skin care favorites are even more important than they are in summertime. I swear by two products, both very affordable and both made by Olay:

Gentle, soap-free formula for extra dry skin rinses clean


Treats sensitive skin to SPF 15 protection, all-day hydration, and a gentle formula that's 100% oil-, fragrance- and <span class=

images courtesy of Olay.com


Want pretty skin? You need to do two things: moisturize and protect. And you don't have to spend a foturne. The body wash with shea butter is the most moisturizing, nourishing product I've ever tried. And Olay Complete moisturizer is a fantastic sun block as well as moisturizer. I have no affiliation with Olay, but I use these great products all the time.


Christmas with Southern Living 2011: Savor * Entertain * Decorate * Share [Book]

image courtesy Google.com

As much as I love reading blogs, at Christmastime I like to have real books in my hands, and the Southern Living books have always been among my favorites. Lately I've enjoyed pulling out my old copies. I have Christmas with Southern Living 1985, which is from the year I got married. Now I've started looking for copies from the years my sons were born. It's such fun to see what was fashionable during those important times in my life!



image courtesy sncmusic.com

One of my favorite things to do during December is to listen to music. Two years ago, my guys and I saw Straight No Chaser live at Christmastime. Now it's an annual tradition for us! We'll see them in concert in Raleigh, North Carolina, this Saturday, December 17. They always put on a great show.

Lastly, my favorite thing to do in December is to reflect on the most precious gift ever given: the gift of God's son. In fact, I'm having a party on Monday, December 19, to celebrate ways to mark the occasion. I'd love for you to join me here for "Home for the Holy Days."

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So what are your favorite things? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My inner Martha


"I'm no Martha," we say, "but look what I made!" Or, if we really want to compliment someone, we'll exclaim, "You're a regular Martha!" or "Martha would be proud!"

Surely Martha Stewart is to be congratulated for inspiring and empowering women to embrace the domestic arts. Thousands upon thousands of us look to her for ideas and inspiration.



In the midst of all my efforts as a wannabe Martha, though, I was reminded of another Martha--the Martha who must certainly have been a homemaker par excellence, and a wonderful, faithful woman into the bargain. Martha of Bethany, friend of Jesus, busied herself and bustled around to make her home welcoming to Jesus. What a great woman! Her sister Mary, on the other hand, seems to have languished a bit when it came to homemaking, preferring to sit and listen to Jesus talk and leave the lion's share of the work to Martha.

Truth be told, I've always felt a lot of sympathy for Martha.

And I think Jesus probably felt a good bit of sympathy for Martha, too. Martha must have felt awfully comfortable with Jesus to be able to voice her concerns to him. Luke 10 tells us that Martha said, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself? Tell her to help me!"

She was right, wasn't she? There was work to be done. Jesus needed a meal, and that meal wasn't going to prepare itself. Many hands make light work, Mary. Chop chop.


Jesus's answer is very tender, but it gets right to the root of the problem. "Martha, Martha," he says, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her."

Ouch.

Quite frankly, I want to be a Martha. I want to have cool projects to blog about. I want people to ooh and ahh over my creations.

Let's be honest: Mary doesn't produce page views. She doesn't get retweeted. Her hanging out with Jesus doesn't produce pictures that will be pinned to Pinterest.

Yet Mary is the one who has chosen the better part. Even at a busy time, she chooses to spend time with Jesus, and the Lord of Lords says that she has her priorities straight.

And so, this Christmas season, while I really want to be a Martha, I'm going to try to be more of a Mary. Maybe, just maybe, I need a little less Christmas--

and a little more Christ.

I'm grateful to be called back to what's important by sharing Tuesdays Unwrapped with Emily at Chatting at the Sky. And I'm joyfully joining Amanda at Serenity Now for Weekend Bloggy Reading.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas house tour

A Christmas tour of homes is one of my favorite things. I'm glad to welcome you to our house.

We're all ready for a blanket of snow!


Our front porch is our outdoor living room. The decorations here are simple but festive.

Now the front door is open wide--come in!


To the left of the front door is my husband's study.


Here is the stone fireplace that you see on the front of the house. I love the stacked stone, and I keep the decor very simple here.

Back to the foyer, where magnolia leaves and poinsettias take the spotlight.



This is the first year we've had a blue dining room. I like the way the blue walls work with our traditional red and green Christmas decor.


The front windows are hard to photograph because of the light, but here's a glimpse of the window decorations. I made the swags from boxwood and magnolia cuttings from our yard, then added ornaments strung on lengths of ribbon. These I simply stapled to the top of the window frame.


The primitive sideboard holds an angel and the Christmas carol plaque I created last year plus some pretty satin-finish ornaments.


Every year I display these Lenox "Trees Around the World" plates on my mother's china cabinet. The plates are from 1991, 1993, and 1997--the years my sons were born. These were their Christmas gifts from me those years.


My mother's tea table in the corner gets a little Christmas cheer, too. I love to display white lilies and Christmas greenery in this lovely pitcher my husband gave me for Christmas two years ago. A bit of ribbon dresses up plain red candles.


The living room is the site of our Christmas tree, which is still a work in process. I'll share that later this week. The living room fireplace is the one we gather 'round for Christmas morning, so it's where our stockings hang.

The topiaries are simple to make--you can see the tutorial here.


Cocoa and Snickers like to sit by the fire, too. It's not often that they'll share this chair!


Next stop on the tour: the kitchen.


The window over the sink usually wears a faux Roman shade, but it's sporting a festive garland and a homemade "NOEL" for Christmastime.


I like a Christmas centerpiece on the island, but any decoration must be non-fragile and must leave lots of workspace. The antique wrapping paper holder and scale fill the bill.


The kitchen table centerpiece is a LEGO creation of my youngest son, who is known on YouTube as LegoLee329.


Click here if you'd like to see more of my kitchen.

And our last stop is the screened porch, which is two stories above the ground. It feels a bit like a treehouse.


Click here if you'd like to read more about my porches.

Thank you for joining me for a Christmas tour of my home!

SPECIAL NOTE: Next Monday, December 19, I'll be hosting a linky party called "Home for the Holy Days." It'll be a chance to share ideas and inspiration for keeping the emphasis on Christ this Christmas. You can read all about it here. I'd love for you to join me!

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I'm joining these tours:




Sunday, December 11, 2011

Party announcement!

In his book God Came Near, Max Lucado writes these words about Bethlehem at the time of of Jesus's birth:
The city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he has just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility. Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren't looking.
In the midst of the hustle-bustle of this busy time of year, it's all too easy to miss the most important thing.

I don't want to miss it.

In fact, I'd like to focus on the ways we can celebrate the birth of Christ. So on Monday, December 19, I'm hosting a linky party called "Home for the Holy Days."

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Do you have special decorations for commemorating the Nativity? I want to see them! Does your family have special traditions for Advent? I'd like to know about them. Do you have favorite books or other resources you could share? This party will be the place to share them.

Please mark your calendars and join me! The link will go up at 10:00 P.M. Eastern time on Sunday, December 18. I'm looking forward to seeing what's going on in your home during these holy days!

Home for the Holy Days
Monday, December 19
Will you come?
Special note: **My friend and kindred spirit Kristin from Kristin's Veranda designed this button for the party. Thank you, Kristin!**

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas in the kitchen

No doubt about it--the kitchen is where I spend most of my time. My kitchen is adjacent to the living room, so I can see the Christmas tree from here, but I also add some Christmas decorations especially for this space. Welcome!


One of the great things about my faux Roman shade is that it can be easily removed. I took it down for Christmastime and replaced it with a simple garland. Come January, it will take just a few minutes to put the shade back up.


I also created a "NOEL" inspired by Pottery Barn's beautiful piece. Mine is simply letters from Hobby Lobby spray-painted black. This was a super-easy project, and I'm happy with the way it turned out.


I simply glued pieces of wood to the bottom to keep the letters together:


I have tall lamps on each side of my kitchen sink. Snowmen hang out underneath the lamps at Christmastime, like this Fitz and Floyd fellow:


Most of the decorations I use in the kitchen are snowmen. A dear friend (Grace's mom) started my snowman collection years ago with the gift of these wonderful plates:



One of the most-used spots in my kitchen is the island. It's a challenge to come up with a centerpiece that's pretty and fun but not fragile.


This fall I found an old scale at an antique store. For Christmas, it's weighing a sack of candy canes.


Beside the scale is another antique store find--a wrapping paper holder! Can't you just see this on the counter of a general store? The roll of Christmas paper was on the holder when I bought it--and the cutter works perfectly!


The main decor in the breakfast area is the table which proudly holds my son's LEGO creation--a Christmas village.


Beside the table is my mother's antique dough cabinet. For Christmas, it holds several snowmen (plus a stereo for playing Nat King Cole and Perry Como!)

Last is the stairwell, which leads down to the terrace level. Sorry about the glare from that light--that's my DIY wall clock you see in the background.

I decorate it simply with a lighted garland accented with some rusty snowmen and red and green houndstooth bows.

Christmas in our kitchen will soon involve the making of many pounds of fudge--I wish I could have you stop by and sample a piece. What's cooking in your kitchen?

**I'm joining the "Christmas in the Kitchen" Party

with Vanessa and Heather from At the Picket Fence.**