Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thank You!

This is the last day of my Cherish Christmas Quest.  Looking back I am so grateful for all that I gained by taking this adventure.  It has been a very special Christmas filled with meaningful memories. 

Today I checked one last item off my Cherish Christmas list.  I wrote out some thank you notes and marked off my 35th idea.  After 30 days of focusing on cherishing Christmas, I found 35 ways to make it memorable. 

And this Quest was not just for me.  Hubby, our Scientist, and our Engineer are the greatest support team.  They have not only supported me in this new blogging adventure, but they have happily joined in on many of my cherish Christmas ideas throughout the month.  Yes, we have made some fantastic memories these past 30 days.

Write Thank You Notes for Christmas Gifts
There is no doubt I felt loved this Christmas.  So many thoughtful people in my life made an effort to show me how much they cared.  I did get some special Christmas gifts, but they weren't all things bought with money.  Although I most certainly appreciated the gifts that were, I was also given time, attention, kind words, encouragement, and even homemade goodies.  I am very grateful for every gift given to me this Christmas. 

Today I took some time to share with a few people how much their thoughtfulness touched me.  Each note was just a few sentences, but hopefully I conveyed how much I cherish what they did for me this year. 

And here's my thank you note to YOU:
Thank you sincerely for taking the time to read about my Quest.  Whether you read my posts every day or just check in occasionally, I value each reader.  Thank you especially to those who took the time to post a comment here on the blog, on My Rosie Outlook Facebook page or sent me an email.  You will never know how much it brightens my day to read your feedback on something I wrote.  It is such a gift - an encouragement to me - and I cherish it!

Tomorrow I will post about my next Heart & Spirit Monthly Quests: Exercising and Writing Everyday!  I am excited about my plans for January.  I hope you will continue to join me as I kick off my 2013 Year Long Adventure!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Chatting with God

This year in honor of my Cherish Christmas Quest, I decided to leave our Christmas decorations up for a couple more days.  I usually have them down by New Year's Day, but my Quest has truly worked, because I'm not ready to put Christmas away.  I just want to cherish it a bit more.

In the spirit of cherishing Christmas, I marked idea #34 off my Cherish Christmas list today when I took some time to Pray for 2013.

Pray for 2013
First thing this morning, before I was even out of bed, I started praying for next year.  There were so many prayers that came to mind, that I prayed throughout the day: while I got ready, cleaned the kitchen, walked outside, made supper, washed the dishes, unloaded the dishwasher, rode in the car, and sat quietly in my Hug Chair. 

As I presented my requests before God, I prayed for the future of our country.  I'm sure there are many of you who are concerned with what the new year will bring with politics, new laws, and court decisions on the local, state, and national levels.  I prayed for our leaders and the choices they will make and our judges and the decisions they will hand down.  I also asked God to be with us citizens as we live with these laws and decisions. 

I prayed for family and friends.  So many people near and dear to us are going through some really difficult times.  We know several loved ones who are in need of good jobs to support their families.  My prayer is 2013 will bring much needed work with a decent paycheck for each of these families. 

Prayers for health also topped my prayer list today.  We know quite a few friends dealing with health issues.  Of course I prayed for healing for all of them in the coming year, especially the three gal pals I know fighting breast cancer.  I also prayed for those who have beat that terrible disease that they may never have to fight it again. 

As I talked with God, I prayed for all the kids in our lives, especially our boys, my niece, and nephews.  I asked God to be with their future and that 2013 will bring good things to their lives.

I also shared with God my thankfulness.  As I started listing my thanks, I found I had so much more to be grateful for than I even realized:  our marriage, our boys, our home, Hubby's job, our family, our friends....so so much...I hope God knows my grateful heart.

Seeking direction from Him, I also petitioned God for the work He would have me do in the next twelve months.  I'm excited about what might be coming and I'm ready for God to create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Those are just a sampling of the prayers I shared with God all day long.  I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father that walks along with me and happily listens to my chatter all day long.  (And I'm thankful He gave me a Hubby that does the same.) 

Friday, December 28, 2012

White Christmas

This afternoon our family loaded into the van and drove over to the local movie theater.  We love going to the movies together and had planned this outing for a few weeks.  As we pulled out of the driveway, we realized it had finally started to snow!  Enjoying a White Christmas was not on my Cherish Christmas list, but that is exactly what I cherished today.
 
Enjoy a White Christmas
As you may remember, we were expecting some snow for Christmas, but although many of our family and friends across the country enjoyed a white Christmas, we did not see even one little flake.  I'm not going to lie, I was disappointed.  It seems to me if we are living in an area that gets snow in the winter, then it should be required we get some at Christmas time.
 
As we walked into the movie theater, I was hopeful for what we might find as we came out to our van a couple hours later.  This time I was not disappointed.  A beautiful soft snow was gently coming down and coating the vehicles in the parking lot.  I looked over at our Engineer and he had a huge smile on his face.  He was glad to see the snow as well.
 
During the drive home, we all delighted in the snow showering down on us and the beauty glistening all around us on tree limbs, roof tops, and fence posts.  Just gorgeous.
 
All through the evening we watched the snow cascade ever so lightly creating a lovely picture outside our windows.  

 
It was such fun watching our boys have a little snowball fight in the backyard.  I love seeing their eyes sparkle and hear the laughter that comes from their happiness.  Playing in the snow brings that out in them every time.  When they came in to warm up, they gratefully accepted mugs of hot chocolate from me.  That made me smile as well.
 
Later in the evening, after the last few snowflakes had fallen, Hubby and I stepped out into the front yard and enjoyed the quiet beauty the snowfall had left behind.  Our Christmas lights sparkled through the untouched new fallen snow. 
 
We held each other close and I cherished this delightful moment.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thinking About My Next Quest in the Glow of Christmas Lights

After a yummy dinner out tonight, the guys helped me check idea #32 off my Cherish Christmas list when we enjoyed some beautiful Christmas lights.

Enjoy Christmas Lights with the Family
Although we have several large Christmas displays in our area, we decided to drive through many of the neighborhoods in our town and "ooh and ahh" over the handiwork of our neighbors.  We not only delighted in the beautiful outdoor decorations, but we also picked up a few ideas for our own yard next year. 

Last Christmas we discovered two homes in a small neighborhood nearby that work together to share an amazing presentation.  We have driven past these homes several times and each time we discover something we didn't notice the last time.  There is just so much to see!  It sets off a glow all the way down the street.  And it's just fun to stop and take a nice long look.

Driving around with my family...looking at Christmas lights...with Christmas music playing in the background...is something I cherish every Christmas...and today, I cherished it again.

Thinking About the Next Quest
As we near the end of the month, my first try at a Heart & Spirit Monthly Quest will soon come to a close. In a few days this Cherish Christmas Quest will be over and I believe it has been successful. I have cherished Christmas this year in a way I have never done before. It has blessed me and my family greatly.

In a few days, I begin my 2013 Year Long Adventure. Over the course of the year, I plan to tackle at least 12 Quests in the hopes of creating a pure heart and renewing my spirit. I have to say, it's going to be a challenging, but exciting year ahead. 

Today I sat down to look over my Heart & Spirit Monthly Quest list and plan out my next Quest. I recently got a new calendar and I'm ready to start filling it in (with pencil, of course) with my ideas.

I plan to take on two Quests in January. I'm going to Exercise Every Day and Write Something Every Day.  I'll share a little more about these Quests soon.  

Are you thinking about joining me for the month of January? If so, please let me know by commenting on this post, commenting on My Rosie Outlook Facebook page, or send me an email

What ideas do you have for a Heart & Spirit Monthly Quest?  Please share your thoughts with me and we can encourage each other during the next month!  Think about it and let me know!

Blessings to You!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Still Cherishing Christmas

Did you have a Merry Christmas?  Oh I hope so!  Our family most certainly did.  Doing this Cherish Christmas Quest has been an amazingly rewarding experience for me.  I'm so thankful I took this adventure.  And it's not even over yet, as I have a few more days of December to cherish this favorite holiday!
 
We enjoyed beautiful family time together these past few days.  Although I have not marked anything new off my list, I have cherished Christmas from morning until night each day.
 
Christmas Eve
Traditionally Mom and Dad have celebrated Christmas with us kids on Christmas Eve.  Most years growing up we enjoyed Christmas morning with Grandma and Grandpa.  They have gone on to their reward in Heaven, but we continue to do Christmas with Mom and Dad on Christmas Eve. 
 
Our little family hasn't always lived close enough to celebrate Christmas with the extended family in person, but as I mentioned before, those years we would still mail gifts and share Christmas over the phone.  Thankfully this year, we were able to literally travel over a river and through the woods to Mom and Dad's house for Christmas. 
 
Sis, Younger Brother, and Youngest Brother, along with their families joined us there.  I know it meant a lot to Mom and Dad to have everyone there!  We gathered around the kitchen table and enjoyed some of our favorite Christmas Eve foods, then moved on to the living room where packages were stacked under the Christmas tree.
 
Once we all quieted down, Dad opened Grandma's much loved Bible, and read the Christmas story to us.  It was, as always, a special family moment.
 
The rest of the evening was filled with much laughter, awe, and even a few tears as we unwrapped the gifts so carefully chosen for each other.  I liked everything I opened, but I have to admit, one gift was most touching.  Youngest Brother made (for each of us) a beautiful picture frame out of Grandpa Farmer & Grandma Teacher's old red barn.  The barn stood on the family farm long before me, but was finally torn down a few years ago. 
 
I love - with all my heart - that a piece of family history now hangs in our home framing a photo of my entire family.  The photo, taken at Mom and Dad's farm last summer, captures all of us just yards away from where that old red barn stood. 
 
Since the festivities of Christmas Eve lasted into the night, we stayed overnight at Mom and Dad's.  Younger Brother and Wife, who live even a little further north than we do, also stayed the night.  Sis and Youngest Brother live nearby, so they bundled up their families and headed home for their own Christmas celebrations the next day.  With hugs and well wishes all around another family Christmas was enjoyed by all.  As I climbed into bed, my heart was full.  I cherished Christmas Eve.
 
Christmas Morning
We awoke the next morning to bags of goodies from Santa under the tree.  There was more laughter and fun as we opened our little gifts.  After a big country breakfast of pancakes, bacon, biscuits, and gravy, it was time to load up and head back to our home.
 
We had been hearing for several days about a big snow storm heading our way and we wanted to get home and settled in before the blizzard hit.  We arrived home safely without seeing a flake of snow.  After unloading, the four of us spent the evening watching movies and munching on Christmas goodies. 

At the end of the night, we took in my favorite Christmas movie: The Nativity Story.  It is, by far, my favorite and was the perfect ending to Christmas Day.  We all four sat there quietly taking in this beautiful portrayal of this most important story.  I am blessed to my core that my teenage sons love this movie as I do.  If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it.  It touches me deeply every time I watch it. 

I definitely cherished this entire day.
 
As we headed to bed, we checked outside, and there was still no sign of snow...
 
The Day After Christmas
Today we slept in, and when we checked outside, we were disappointed to find that we did not get any snow for Christmas.  Mom reported they ended up with several inches, but our area was missed by the storm.  We decided to stay in our jammies and pretend we were snowed in even though we were not. 
 
I filled the slow cooker with Chicken and Dumplings, and settled into my Hug Chair for a "goof off" day.  We didn't do anything exciting, but we did enjoy some wonderful family time filled with laughter.  We watched the Grinch movie and now all the guys are gaming together while I write this.  The house is quiet, the Christmas lights on the Christmas tree are glowing and my guys are laughing and teasing each other as they enjoy a new game.  I just don't think I could cherish this more.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Celebrate! It's Christmas!

Today and tomorrow we will be busy Celebrating Christmas - checking off #31 from my list.

My hope for you is that the coming days will be filled with many wonderful moments that you will cherish.

Looking forward to chatting with you in a couple days!  Merry Christmas Eve!

One day until Christmas!  Enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Family!

Where do I even begin?  It was Christmas at our house today, that's for sure.  We did several items from my Cherish Christmas list including: spending time with family, opening presents with family, reading my Christmas devotionals, watching Christmas movies with the family, singing along to Christmas songs, and enjoying a special Christmas dinner (which happens to also be check off #30 from my list!)

Enjoy A Special Christmas Dinner
We had our little family Christmas today because we will be spending time with extended family on Christmas.  We love Christmas and while it's not the same as it was when the boys were little, it's just as special now as then. 

We have several family traditions that we enjoy every year.  It might be something little like the boys finding "golden chocolate coins" in their stockings (which still excites them) to our Special Christmas Dinner.  While we love a Citrus and Herb Roasted Turkey or a Pineapple Brown Sugar Ham, our special Christmas meal is quite easy, but something we look forward to every year. 

It may seem funny to you, but we get a Hickory Farms Sausage and Cheese Box as a fun treat at Christmas.  It's something we only enjoy once a year, which makes us look forward to it even more.  It's super easy for me both in prep time and clean up.  It's nice because everyone enjoys it and I also get to relax and spend time with all of them rather than spending the day in the kitchen. 

We have many other fun traditions we observe each year such as reading Christmas stories and our little Christmas Advent Books that tell a little of the Christmas story each day.  We also have two special Christmas Countdown Calenders.  One is a tree I gave the boys when they were little and they hang an ornament on the tree each day from December 1st until Christmas. 

The other one was the last gift we received from my Grandma Gem.  She actually ordered it before she passed away.  It is a handmade wreath with handmade ornaments.  One ornament is hung on the wreath each day leading up to Christmas as well.  It was delivered to our family after Grandma's funeral.  As you can imagine, it means a lot to me.  We also have favorite decorations, songs, movies, and games that we cherish at Christmas. 

And the Turkey and Ham?  I still plan to make these family favorites sometime in the coming week.  Christmas really lasts at least until the end of December around here. 

On a really happy note we also had two new additions at our Christmas celebration this year.  For 11 years we had such fun at Christmas watching our beloved dog Sophie Girl open her presents. 

Sophie Girl was the star of Christmas every year.  She loved opening presents and it always felt like we had a little one at Christmas because of her excitement over opening each gift.  It was the cutest thing and added a very heartwarming excitement to our gift opening time. 

In the fall of 2011, we lost Sophie Girl suddenly to liver failure.  In a matter of hours a very important part of our family was gone.  It was devastating to the entire family.  Last Christmas just wasn't the same.  Sophie Girl's excitement was greatly missed.  We all felt it. 

We weren't sure if we could open our hearts to another pet, but after Christmas, we all agreed it was (in our Engineer's words) "too quiet around here".  So a friend of mine had four month old miniature dachshunds that needed a home.  We welcomed our Twins (a boy and a girl) into our home just a few days after Christmas. 

As you can imagine, our house sprang to life with two baby pups running around.  Our Twins brought, as I noted in this year's Christmas cards, "much needed noise, laughter, and cuteness" to our home. 

Today was our first Christmas with them.  We found out right away that they were not fans of a Santa hat or Christmas bows, but they loved opening presents!  We sat around them by the Christmas tree laughing with happiness while they tore into their packages with tails wagging furiously.  They jumped around, ran around, and carried toys around in their mouths.  It was so much fun to watch their joy. 

Today was the day for our family to celebrate Christmas and I cherished it.

Just Two Days until Christmas!

Let's Catch Up!

Arg!  It's after midnight, and I had planned to post this Saturday, December 22, 2012. 
So let's just pretend I made it before midnight!
 
Did you miss me?  I missed writing to you! 
 
Friday was a very busy day and I really didn't have a chance to get to my computer and chat with you.  However, I did check #27 off my Cherish Christmas list when I delivered homemade goodies to our neighbors.  I also checked off #28 when I gave a treat to the lady at the Post Office. 
 
Saturday was filled with time with our extended family.  Many of Mom's side gathered together to celebrate Christmas, and I checked yet another item off my list (#29) when we opened presents with family.
 
Deliver Homemade Goodies to Our Neighbors
Due to Hubby's job, we have lived in several different places throughout our married life.  For most of that time, we have lived far away from family.  We have been so thankful for all the wonderful neighbors we have known. 
 
Each place we have lived, our lives have been blessed by such good neighbors and that has meant so much to us!   Our neighbors next door moved in the same week we did.  They have reached out to us and helped us out with our two Puppies.  I was happy to be able to take them a bag of cookies and candies and thank them for all that have done for us this past year.  It is a comfort to know they are next door.
 
On a fun note, a short time later our doorbell rang and there stood a man with a beautiful flower arrangement from our former neighbors who lived next door to us at our last place.  It touched me so much when I read the card and it said how much they missed us!  Yes, we cherish our neighbors.
 
Give a Treat to A Post Office Worker
Ok, I'll admit it, I took packages to the Post Office on Friday.  Yep...Friday.
 
I don't think I have ever gotten Christmas packages out so late before.  It's a bit embarrassing....but, it is true. 
 
Hubby went with me to help carry the four boxes we needed to mail and I think he knew that I was in need of some moral support - and I was.  
 
The Post Office is (of course) crazy busy just a few days before Christmas and we braced ourselves for a long line and short tempers.  Thankfully we didn't find either.  One of the cool little unexpected positives about living here is that our Post Office is the best, most efficient, and most friendly I have ever known.  The workers there always seem genuinely happy and interested in doing whatever they can to help their customers. 
 
I was pleasantly surprised to find it was the same upbeat atmosphere as usual on that busy Friday afternoon.  The lady helping us with our packages was so kind, I really wanted to show her my appreciation.  Then I remembered I had an extra Starbucks Gift Card in my purse.  While she finished up the postage on our packages, I dug around in my purse and found the card. 

After we finished our transaction, I wished her a Merry Christmas and handed her the gift card.  She was so surprised!  It was fun to reward her for her good attitude and effort.  I love being able to do that!  As we walked out Hubby noted how much I enjoy doing things like that.  And I do.
 
Open Presents with Family
I come from a large extended family.  My childhood was filled with close family time.  I have wonderful memories of spending time together every Sunday at church, gathering on the holidays and special occasions, camping, picnicking, and just spending time together.  There would always be a table full of delicious homemade food, laughter, game playing, story telling, and music.  Grandpa would play his harmonica or mouth harp, Mom and my Aunts would take turns playing the piano, and we would gather around singing song after song. 

Now as many years have passed, the cousins are all grown up with children of their own.  Our family has grown ever bigger with marriages and new babies.  Grandma and Grandpa have both gone on to their reward in Heaven, and they are greatly missed.  However, their spirit lives on as we gather together, laugh over old memories and continue some of the traditions they began with their little family of six all those years ago. 

Saturday we enjoyed a bountiful breakfast, sang, laughed, and yes, we even opened presents.   It was the type of celebration where you leave with a little smile on your face, thankful you got to be there.  As we drove home from our time opening presents with family, I cherished this Christmas Get-Together Day.

Just a couple days until Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Gift Ever

It's been a very Christmasy Day around here.  I listened to and sang along to lots of my favorite Christmas songs, all afternoon I made Christmas goodies, and I packaged those treats up to give away.  I might even wrap some presents tonight as well.

But those are all things I've already done to cherish Christmas, so today I'm going to do something that isn't on my list.  I want to tell you about the best gift I ever received.

The Best Gift Ever
I mentioned yesterday that I grew up in a pastor's family.  When my parents brought me home from the hospital, it was to a tiny little white house just two doors down from our little country church.  Grandma Gem and Grandpa Pastor lived on the other side in the church's parsonage.  One of my very first outings was to church.  I attended that church with most of my family members for the first 21 years of my life, until Hubby and I moved away.

As with most pastor's families, we were there pretty much anytime the church doors were open.  I heard the Word of God preached from the pulpit from my very own Grandpa.  It was a very blessed way to grow up. 

When I was seven years old, our church had a week long Revival.  I don't remember a lot about it, but I remember the most important parts.  I was standing next to Grandma (second row pew, piano side) and we were singing the final hymn.  Mom and Dad were not there, which was very unusual, but they had something to do that night with their business and were out of town. 

The Revival Pastor and Grandpa were both standing at the front of that little church and an invitation had been offered to anyone who would like to go forward and accept the gift of Jesus into their life.  I had heard this invitation every church service my entire seven years.  I had watched others accept the gift of Jesus' salvation.  I had seen members of my own family go forward and pray. 

But this night was different.  This night, I believe I heard God speak to me. I haven't ever really heard it since, but that night I believe I heard an audible voice tell me to go forward and accept this precious gift. 

I looked over at Grandma and I asked her if I should go.  She did the most amazing thing.  It confused me at the time, but now I can look back with such admiration that she did that for me.  Do you know what Grandma did?  She turned her face away from me.  She didn't say a word, just looked away.  I was surprised.  Grandma had never done that to me before. 

So I stood there for a moment and then I stepped out in faith. 
I stepped out into the aisle and I slowly walked toward the front of the church.  Thankfully, since I was sitting with the pastor's wife, I didn't have a long walk! 

I first came to the Revival Pastor, but he didn't see me.  He had his eyes closed as he prayed.  So I walked over to Grandpa who welcomed me with open arms into a huge bear hug.  He lead me to kneel down at the alter and he prayed with me. 

I asked God to forgive my sins.  I really didn't have too many horrible sins at age seven.  But thankfully you can come to Jesus with a few sins or many and He will forgive them just the same.  I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart and be Lord of my life.  I promised to live my life for him.  And although I am not anywhere near perfect, I have honestly tried to keep that promise since that day. 

Grandma and Sister both came and knelt with me.  Grandma cried tears of happiness that started Sis and me crying too.  Soon we were passing Grandma's hanky back and forth between the three of us. 

Later that evening, my parents came to pick us up and I told them what they missed.  I still can't believe the one night they were out of town is the night God called me to be His.  After taking several weeks of classes with Grandpa, he baptized me in front of family and friends. 

I realize that different denominations offer different experiences to salvation through Jesus Christ, but it doesn't matter if your experience is anything like mine of not.  There isn't a set way to accept the gift of Jesus, you just have to do it sincerely in your heart, confessing your sins, and asking Him to be your Savior.  It's the most important gift you will ever receive. 

Now I was only seven years old and I didn't then fully understand what I had done that night.  And truthfully, all these years later, I'm still learning what it means to be a follower of Christ.  At the age of seven I did not have a horrid life of sin where there was an amazing transformation in my life.  I don't have that kind of testimony. 

There are those that do.  It may take them hitting rock bottom to find Jesus.  When they do, everyone can see the change He made in their lives.  They are an inspiration to people everywhere and an example that God will gladly welcome anyone home, no matter what is in the past! 

No, at seven I didn't have a testimony like that.  But over the years, I realized I do have a testimony worth sharing.  Trusting God has become an everyday lifelong experience for me. It is a very real part of who I am and guides all that I say and do. That does not make me righteous or even right all the time, but it makes me try to be! I wake up everyday trying to be a better person than I was the day before. I seek God's guidance and forgiveness each and everyday.  

I have no doubt that I am a child of God. I have a place - a moment - that I can turn to and remember.  I know it's real and it happened. I have full confidence that Jesus saved me and I am His.  

I am so thankful that Grandma looked away that night. By doing that, she gave me a wonderful gift as well. I made that decision. On my own. And it's been by far, the best decision I have ever made. 

As you know by now, I love Christmas.  It is a very special, important holiday to me.  Now maybe you can understand why I love Christmas and the Christmas Story so much.  A Savior was born.  My Savior was born!  I am so very very grateful. 

And the best part?  He can be your Savior too!  The gift is yours for the taking! Merry Christmas!

The very best gift I ever received was at the alter in a little country church when I was seven years old and I have cherished it ever since.

Just 5 days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I Want to Be a Walking Christmas Story

Finally, the last of our Christmas cards went out today, and I checked #25 off my list!
 
However, that wasn't my biggest Cherish Christmas moment today.  It wasn't something I did, but something my cousin, Pastor Cousin (author of Christ First Ministry blog) did. 
 
Mail Christmas Cards
So you may remember, I ordered our Christmas cards this year and they arrived at our house on December 1.  Yes, I realize it's December 19.  So...um.. yeah...it took me 19 days to finally get the last stack of them mailed off. 
 
From a more Rosie Outlook, I guess I can say...at least I didn't give up, I kept working on them, and I did get them mailed out before Christmas!  And I did cherish each family on our Christmas card list as I prepared each card to be mailed out.
 
Be a Walking Christmas Story
Pastor Cousin is my younger cousin (by 6 months).  We grew up together in a faithful Christ loving family. We were greatly influenced by our Grandpa who pastored our church when we were young.  Pastor Cousin has now followed in Grandpa's steps and is a minister.  It has been my privilege to hear him speak from the same pulpit, in the same little country church where Grandpa preached. 
 
Around the same time that I came up with my Monthly Quest idea, he was feeling lead to reach out to others and share the Word of God. It's all been God's perfect timing, because we have been able to be a support to each other as we journey into new territory.  
 
Yesterday Pastor Cousin wrote this devotional:  
"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted In the earth ( Ps. 46:10 NIV)
If you are like a lot of people right now , the last thing you have time for is to be still. You have Christmas parties, shopping, family gatherings, work, school, on and on. 
But God would like to invite you to sit down, relax, focus on Him and have a chat. He is after all what the season is all about anyway. Have a cup of coffee, close your eyes, whatever, just rest in the fact that He is God, and He's on the throne.  As sad, crazy, stressful as things might seem right now, He is still God. He has it under control. 
The last part of this verse is very important as well. They can't take Christ out of Christmas because if you're a Christian, His Spirit lives in us. We are walking Christmas stories everyday because we should be showing His Spirit everyday. We are to show what He does in our lives daily. 
So relax, enjoy, and worship Him this Christmas season!"
 
I just love the idea of being a "walking Christmas story".  I am upping my game these days leading up to Christmas.  I am not just going to try to cherish Christmas the rest of this month.  I'm going to take it a step further and focus each day on being a walking Christmas story. 
 
My cousin wrote these beautiful words that encouraged me today.  And I cherished it.
 
Just six days until Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Popcorn Memories

We made Popcorn Strings and Watched a Christmas Movie, so I checked ideas #23 & #24 off my list today!
 
String Real Popcorn & Watch A Christmas Movie
Our family loves real popcorn.  We have owned numerous Stir Crazy Popcorn Poppers.  We love it so much, that we usually have a "back up popper" just in case our current popper would go out.  We will eat microwave popcorn in a pinch, but all four of us really loves the taste of real popped popcorn. 
 
After all the bowls of popcorn I have popped over the years, it seems a little crazy that we have never taken the time to string some of that popcorn for garland for our Christmas tree!  I guess it was just too tempting to eat!
 
Tonight I popped a big bowl of popcorn and then handed some silver thread to our Engineer, and some gold thread to our Scientist.  We gathered around the popcorn bowl and started stringing popcorn, piece by piece onto our threads. 
 
Hubby turned on the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" DVD and we settled in to enjoy the movie while we made our garlands. We sang along to the "Grinch Song" - a favorite, as you may remember, of our Engineer.  It didn't take long for each of us to make a nice long garland.  As the movie wrapped up, we added our popcorn garland to our Christmas tree.
 
Tonight it was such fun to watch our boys enjoy celebrating Christmas in a way we had never done before.  It was sweet family time.  Their laughter and smiles warmed my heart.  And I cherished it.

One week until Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking a Step Back in Time

I didn't do anything new to check off of my list today, but that doesn't mean I didn't do things to cherish Christmas.  Today, I spent time Christmas shopping for others and I read my Christmas Devotionals. 

However, I have done a few things to celebrate Christmas on other days that I haven't mentioned yet, so I will share one of those with you today.  A few days ago, Hubby and I met up with my sister and brother-in-law to enjoy a Historic Christmas Festival (no, that wasn't on the list, but I'm counting it as check off #22). 

Attend a Historic Christmas Festival
One of the blessings of our current location is that we live near some of our family.  Several of our family members had been to this festival, but we had not had the opportunity to experience it ourselves.  So Sis and I made plans to meet there Friday evening. 

Of course, by now you know that Friday took a difficult turn in our country. 

We still went to the festival.  It was good to be with family, but I didn't have the heart to talk about our Christmas enjoyment in my blog post that night.

So today, I'll share a little of that experience with you. 
 
The air was chilled, but not cold.  We strolled through the beautifully decorated village while characters dressed in period costumes entertained the crowd.  Somewhere actual chestnuts were being roasted.   We enjoyed the music of carolers and drummers.  We saw people huddled around little fires toasting marshmallows.  Rumor had it Santa was somewhere nearby. Horse drawn carriages clomped up and down the streets with visitors enjoying the ride.  Little Christmas shops stuffed full of gifts, goodies, trinkets, baubles, and heavenly scents lined the brick paved streets.   Sis and I had a fun time looking for treasures in those little shops. 

Down one little cove, we found some life size Christmas statues.  Sis and I couldn't resist posing with the Caroling Family.  We thought Mom would enjoy the picture.   There we stood among the dad, mom, and little girl.  The little boy was missing - which made us giggle that maybe he was broken? (If you don't get that - you need to read this.)

Taking a step back in time and enjoying a little break from the news was soothing for my soul Friday night.  It was nice to be with my sister.  Did I mention she is a principal?  Yes, it was nice to be together and I cherished it.

Just 8 days until Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Funday

I love Sundays.  It's always my favorite day of the week.  It's usually a slower paced day, a day to spend with family, a day to attend church, and a day to relax a little.

Since our Scientist is home for semester break, our little family was all together today.  We cherished time together as a family and I checked #21 off my list.

Spend Time with Family
Christmas is most definitely an opportunity to spend time with family.  In the coming days we will get to spend time with some of our extended family, but today was a day for just the four of us.

First we attended church where we sat together, sang Christmas songs, enjoyed beautiful choir, hand bell, and orchestra performances, and heard a wonderful message from the book of Luke on the Christmas Story. 

We enjoyed lunch, then loaded into the van for a drive to cash in those tickets I surprised the guys with yesterday.  We enjoyed a fantastic show with super funny comedian, Tim Hawkins.  We had never seen him in a live show and he did not disappoint us. We laughed all the way home. 

After the show, we stopped for pizza at a favorite pizza place.  The day was filled with lots of chatting and laughter.  It was just so good to be together and I most certainly cherished it.  I think we all did.

During the month of December, there are so many activities and events.  We find ourselves running from one thing to another at a hectic pace.  It was so nice to slow down a little today and really enjoy time together.

My hope is you will find time in the busy, hectic days ahead to slow down a little and enjoy some time with the ones you love.

Just 9 days until Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hope of Christmas

I believe most of America awoke with a heavy heart this morning.  I had many of the same feelings I wrote about just a little over a week ago.  I even went back today and reread what I wrote then.  After the horror of yesterday's shootings at a school in Connecticut, how can we go forward cherishing Christmas?

I've thought about this all day long. 

I believe now more than ever, we, as a people, need to focus on Christmas.  We need all the hope that Christmas brings by celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, who offers salvation to all who believe in Him.  In times of great heartache, those who believe turn to God for strength.  Yesterday brought many many people in this nation to their knees.  I know it did me.

And yet with sadness in my heart, today was also a joyous day for our family because we welcomed our Scientist back home for the semester break.  It was a wonderful reunion for all four of us.  We are the kind of family that truly enjoys being together and we delighted in our Scientist's return - even if it's just for a few weeks.  We know we will cherish this time together as a family. 

I also checked #20 off my list when I Surprised Someone with an Early Christmas Gift. 

Surprise Someone with an Early Christmas Gift
A few months ago, I secretly purchased tickets to see a live show of one of our favorite comedians.  Once our family was all together, I presented the surprise tickets to my guys.  They were all super excited to get the opportunity to go to this show while our Scientist is home and we can all go together.  It was a long time to keep a secret, but worth it when I saw their reaction. 

It was good to be able to smile and laugh today.  It was good to know we could make another family memory together.  It was good to have something to look forward to - together as a family.  While our hearts break for those who are deeply hurting, yesterday was also a reminder how precious our time together is and how important it is to take time to be together and cherish each other this Christmas.

Christmas Devotion
On the day I was hurting for a friend and wasn't sure how to cherish Christmas while there was so much hurting going on around me, I turned to my Christmas devotions and found just the verses and words I needed to share comfort.

Yesterday as we reeled from the horrible events of the shooting, once again I found comfort in my Christmas devotions through the verses and words written for that day's lesson.

So it was really no surprise to me that today I would read a devotional titled "God's Goodness" with the scripture reading from Psalm 23. 

The author, Jack Countryman says these words: "Certain days - certain seasons of life - may cause us to question God's goodness, His mercy, and even His presence with us.  In times like that, we choose to trust that God is with us and is choreographing good to come as a result of these dark places.  We choose to believe - regardless of our circumstances - that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is with us and is caring for us." 

I don't know when Mr. Countryman sat down and wrote these words, but they were most certainly written for today.

Just 10 days until Christmas.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Heartache in America

Today quickly turned into a day of great horror and heartache in America.  Today 26 innocent people lost their lives in an unexplainable tragedy.  Twenty little children were lost and our nation sat with tears in their eyes watching the news in shock as we learned of the mass shooting at a school in Connecticut.

As we heard the news on TV, our Engineer quietly held my hand while tears ran down my face.  Our Scientist (away at college) called on FaceTime so I could see his face.  I just needed to see him.  We looked at each other through our phones and we told each other we loved each other.  Several times throughout the afternoon our Engineer would get up and just give me a hug.  Today I truly cherished my children.

I have prayed all afternoon for those who are hurting tonight.  So much loss.  So much heartache.  It affects us all so deeply.

My Christmas Devotion today on December 14 was titled "God's Comfort". 
The scripture was from 2 Corinthians:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."  ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

My prayer is that God, the Father of compassion and comfort, will hold those families in His arms tonight and get them through these horribly difficult days ahead.

Today I think we all cherished our children a little more.

And with just 11 days until Christmas, I pray for the people of Connecticut.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ring (Salvation Army) Christmas Bells

Ring...Ring...Ring...Ring....Ring!

Today I got to be a Salvation Army Bell Ringer!  And our Engineer did it with me!  And I checked #19 off my list!  And it was an experience we will not soon forget!

Volunteer to Be a Salvation Army Bell Ringer
You see them every Christmas out in front of the stores wearing their bright red aprons standing next to the bright red kettle.  You might even hear them before you see them. 

For me it's always been a "sign" that Christmas is here. 

When I was working on my Cherish Christmas list, I thought it would be interesting to volunteer to be a bell ringer.  I had it in the back of my mind, but had not done any research to find out about it.

Then I got an email from a local homeschooling group who had committed to taking care of a red kettle for a day and were asking for families to sign up to take a shift.  Our family couldn't do it that day, but that email gave me the nudge I needed to look into volunteering.

It turns out they have a very simple process.  You just go to this Salvation Army Ring Bells site, pick your city, location, time, and sign up.  It's really that easy.  It took me less than five minutes.

Our Engineer and I started our morning off with Algebra II, just like any other morning, but instead of moving on to English, we bundled up and headed out to do something we had never done before. 

When we got to the grocery store, the Salvation Army guys gave us red aprons to wear and we each got a jingling bell to ring.  They even gave us a "back up bell".  They hooked the bright red kettle to the stand, and we began ringing our bells.

It was a chilly 45 degrees today, which in Rosie world is very very cold.  But I wasn't going to let that dampen my spirit.  I was bundled up in a coat, scarf, and gloves.  Our Engineer recently had surgery when he broke his finger.  He has a pin sticking out of it while the bone heals.  We didn't think about it until this morning, but there was no way to get a glove on that hand.  So, he wore one glove and kept the broken hand in his pocket for most of the session. 

Yes, he volunteered to be a bell ringer even though he had a hand in a brace.  He was a real trouper today!  And I was very proud of him.

We smiled and wished people "Merry Christmas".  We rang our bells.  We waved at little ones.  We nodded and said "Good Morning."  We thanked those who gave.  We let several little guys and gals take a turn at ringing the bells.  And I cherished this experience with my son.

Here's what I came away with today:  There are a lot of wonderful, kind, generous, caring people in this world.  There are people who take the time to bless others with their words, their money, or both.  There are people who feel bad they don't have more to give.  There are people who are uncomfortable.  There are people who are annoyed.  There are people who won't make eye contact.  Sometimes people can even be a bit rude.  There are people who are hurting, in need, or maybe both. 

I came away with compassion for each person I saw today. 

While I stood there ringing that bell, I really only had one thing to do and that was to watch the people going in and out of the store.  How often do I just rush in, rush through, and rush out of the grocery store?  In a word:  Always. 

Do I look at the people?  Do I take time to notice the elderly couple leaning on each other as they slowly make their way through the parking lot?  Do I notice the young mother carrying a little one in a sling around her while trying to keep another one seated in the cart?  Do I notice the woman in the thin jacket shivering as she hurries inside?  Do I notice the worker with the scarf wrapped around his face while he gathers the carts from the parking lot?  Do I notice the man with the sad eyes?  Do I notice the people all around me? 

Not like I did today.

It was such an amazing experience to take the time to really look at people and react to them.  Many of them wished us well with a "Good Morning" or "Merry Christmas".  Some even thanked us!  One gentleman stopped and asked our Engineer if I made him do this or if he had volunteered.  He politely told the man that he had volunteered and wanted to do it.  The man's face broke into a huge smile and he shook our Engineer's hand.  Then he told us he had been a bell ringer himself. 

Our favorite moment of the morning came at the end of our shift.   The Salvation Army guys were actually a little late in coming back to relieve us.  But I'm glad they were or we would have missed out on the cutest little guy.  He was probably 3 or 4.  When he came out of the store with his mom, he had a crisp $1 bill in his hand.  He was SO excited.  You could see it on his face.  His eyes sparkled as he stuffed his money in the kettle.  He was actually shaking with excitement.  Oh if all people could give with such enthusiasm!

As soon as he made sure his donation was in the kettle he turned to me with a huge grin on his face.  I could tell he wanted to ask me something, so I offered to let him ring my bell.  He yelled out "YES!" before I could finish asking.  (His mom said that he had been wanting to ring that bell from the moment he spotted us as they entered the store.) 

Then he turned to our Engineer and asked if he could ring his bell as well.  It was SO cute.  Our Engineer gave him the bell and the little guy shook both bells as hard and loud as he could.  Then he raised his hands over his head and instructed us to "do it just like this".  After he returned the bells to us, he skipped happily all the way to his car.  If only we could all experience the joy in Christmas like this little guy!

I'm going to leave you with one final thought from today.  When you walk past a bell ringer, please take a moment to look at them.  Smile.  Wish them well.  Don't just walk by and act like you don't see them.  They are not judging if you give something or not.  They are just there to Ring the Salvation Army Christmas Bell.  And I promise...they are taking the time to see you.

Only 12 days to go...

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some Years are Better Than Others

I believe it was December 5th, when I posted that I was working on my Christmas cards.  I did begin working on them then, and for some crazy reason (who knows all the excuses why?), it's six days later and I'm still looking at a stack of cards. 

Oh sure, I got the first batch addressed, stamped, sealed, and sent off that day or the next.  I finished the second stack and sent them off just a day or so later. 

The last stack? Well...it just kept getting in my way on my desk.  I've moved it from one end of my desk to the other all week, but today is the day I finally decided I had to finish those cards.  

We can all hope I get to check off Mailed Christmas Cards tomorrow, but we will just have to see how it goes.

While sitting down to finish the cards, I also decided it was time to write a note to a few people who have made 2012 special for me (check #18 off of my list).

Write Notes to People Who Have Helped Make 2012 Special
Yesterday, I read the best opening to a Christmas Letter I have ever read.  My dear sweet friend writes a lovely news-filled letter every year.  I just adore her and I adore reading her newsy yearly recap. 

After a couple opening lines, she wrote this:  "It has been a good year, but we have seen better". 

That just made me giggle!  What a great way to put it.  Admittedly, that is pretty much how I would sum up this year for us.  I just didn't know how to express it until I read her words. 

In November, I shared with you a little of my struggles this past year.  We had a rougher year than some.  It wasn't always fun and Rosie. 

However, I also felt some guilt over feeling blue, because I am one blessed girl.  And I really do know it.  I have awesome loving people in my life and I'm really doing ok. 

It's just that my circumstances aren't what I had hoped they would be right now.  If I got to pick, I would choose something different.  Thankfully, I am not in charge, because clearly if I were, I would not be making the right choices. 

Since I fully surrender, "not my way, Lord, but Yours", I know I am right where God wants me to be in life...even if it's not exactly the circumstances I would choose for my life right now.

So, with the idea that "it's been a good year, but we have seen better", I had a few people to write to who have helped make it a good year for me. 

Today as I check the 18th item off my list, I am thankful that it was a good year.  I am thankful for the years that were better, and I'm even thankful for the years that were worse (oh sure, there have been worse). 

When I think about it...good, bad, or better - each year I have been given great blessings of friends and family, opportunities to grow, and chances or even second chances for love and forgiveness. 

This morning when I clicked on my Facebook page, I saw: "See Your 2012 Year in Review: Look back at your 20 biggest moments from the past year." 
 
Of course I had to click on it and see what Facebook thought was my 20 biggest moments.  Some were big moments...others were just a regular comment from a regular day.  Facebook doesn't know me as well as it thinks it does. 

As I looked through the past year's posts and pictures, I thought:
You know what? It has been a good year. 
 
And today, I sat down, wrote some notes and cherished a few people who helped make it so.
 
Just 13 days to go...
 
Have a Blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

It's Beginning to Smell A Lot Like Christmas!

Mmmmmmmmmmm.  At our house it has been looking like Christmas and sounding like Christmas for a few days, but today it began to smell like Christmas too!  Yep, that means I checked Make Christmas Goodies (#16) and Try A New Christmas Recipe ( #17) off my list today!
 
Make Christmas Goodies & Try A New Christmas Recipe
Like many others, there are several yummy treats I usually make only at Christmas time.  Hubby asked if I would be willing to make a couple of his favorites to give out to people at his work.  It was such a sweet request.  How could I say no? 
 
So I gathered the supplies, turned on the Christmas music, and started out by whipping up my recipe for Spiced Pecans.  I made them our very first Christmas as Hubby & Wifey.  They were such a hit, that I've been making them ever since. 

They are yummy and easy to make, but the best part about making them is -while they are baking they make the whole house smell like Christmas!  I just love that smell.
 
While they were filling the house with the smell of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, I layered potatoes, mushrooms, chicken, and artichokes in the slow cooker for Christmas Chicken.  This is a recipe I found in a slow cooker cookbook and decided it would be fun to try today.  Soon the smells of this dish were filling the house as well.

While the pecans cooled on the counter and the chicken simmered away in the slow cooker, I did some school with the Engineer.  Once we finished up for the day, I returned to the kitchen to make "those yummy peanut butter chocolate Christmas things". 

I've been making these peanut-buttery-chocolatey goodies for years, but I don't really have a name for them.  We were introduced to these wonders of tasty goodness several years ago when a wonderful neighbor made them for us for Christmas.  Since each one of us loves chocolate and peanut together, it quickly became a family favorite. 

They are super easy to make: spread some peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, dip that in melted chocolate, and enjoy!  So easy, right?  Well, normally yes, but today that usually quick project, took hours, and resulted in me making not one, not two, not even three, or four, but FIVE batches of chocolate. 

I won't bore you with all the details, but I think some of my chocolate was old, one batch wouldn't harden, one batch was too thick, and then when I finally got it right, it wasn't enough and I needed to make one more batch. 

In the end, I finished the project, but... 
I. had. chocolate. everywhere. 
It was all over the kitchen and me.  It was a mess.  I was a mess.  

Here's where the Cherish Christmas part really comes in.  While this was all going on, a younger, more dramatic Rosie (if you can even imagine...) might have melted when the chocolate wouldn't and ended up in tears.  But I'm older and (hopefully) less dramatic about such things now.

And to be honest, I think all those hours spent watching reality cooking shows paid off.  I just took a deep breath and thought like a "Chopped" champion, "Ok, how do I make this work with the ingredients I have in my pantry?"  Then after finding my inner "Top Chef", I tried making another batch.  And in the end - it worked out.

I think I was in the middle of making that last batch when I realized that while it was a bit frustrating, I wasn't letting these setbacks ruin my fun of making Christmas goodies. 

Thankfully, I had put dinner in the slow cooker earlier in the day, which took a lot of work and stress off the table as I dealt with my chocolate mess.  Even better - it was a successful recipe and we enjoyed a lovely dinner of Christmas Chicken.

After enjoying our meal,  Hubby jumped in and helped clean up while I finished working on those "chocolate peanut butter things".  They are currently sitting on wax paper, waiting to be boxed up and handed out tomorrow. 

And if there are enough left over...I might even be able to check another item off my Cherish Christmas List tomorrow.

Sometimes it's about letting the frustrations of the moment go so that the rest of the day isn't ruined.  We add so much to our plates at Christmas time that little things can easily turn into big things. 

Thankfully, my focus on cherishing Christmas really helped me to enjoy the entire day - even the part that was one big chocolate mess. 

And really, if you have to have a big mess...having a chocolate one isn't so bad.

14 days to go...

Have a Blessed Christmas!