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Ruby eâuçforyÉÜWomen jÉÅxÇ

A voice for every Christian woman j|ÇàxÜ? ECDF2013 @ ECDG Autumn

“. . . . her worth is far above rubies.” Proverbs 31:10


Ruby for Women Winter, 2013 - 2014 www.rubyforwomen.com

In This Issue . . . Page 5

Title The Sacrifice of a Servant’s Heart Nina Newton, Sr. Editor

6 Amanda Johnson, Asst. Editor

Christmas is coming! What a joyous announcement for each and every one. We look forward to the celebration of the Birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and wish you all a blessed holiday season. And then for the rest of the winter, be sure to visit the Ruby for Women blog often for more inspirational articles, stories, crafts, recipes, poems, book reviews and giveaways! Please stop by soon! www.rubyforwomen.com

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When the Carolers Came Cindy J. Evans

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In Defense of the Much-Maligned Fruit Cake Gloria Doty

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Still Looking: Finding the Peace of God in Job Loss by Vicky Huffman Review by Daphne Tarango

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Create Your Own Vintage Jewelry Holiday Necklace Katherine Corrigan

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Homemade Cranberry Sauce from the kitchen of Marie Dittmer, Healthy Ideas Place

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Nowhere to Live Lynn Mosher

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Grandma’s Thornless Yellow Rose Elsie (Mimi) Spurlock

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Keeping it Real this Christmas Heather King

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Gingerbread Houses: A Traditional Holiday Treat

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What He Could Have Said (Part 1) Lanette Kissel

Senior Editor: Nina Newton Assistant Editor: Amanda Johnson Poetry: Keith Wallis Creative Assistant: Katherine Corrigan Family Fun Editor: Beth Brubaker Gardening: Dorothy Kurchak Devotions: Lynn Mosher Feature Writers: Connie Arnold, Jennifer Workman, Theresa Ceniccola, Mimi Spurlock, Daphne Tarango, Sharon L. Patterson, Elizabeth Baker, Gloria Doty, Kristi Burchfiel, Christena Hammes, Taylor DeVine, Rhea B. Riddle, Amanda Stephan, Tricia Goyer, Michelle Lazurek, Lisa Simpkins, Kristin Bridgman, Linda M. Crate, Debra Ann Elliott, Corallie Buchanan, Kathleen Kohler, Heather King, Patrice D. Wilkerson, Lanette Kissel, Cindy J. Evans, Bel Thomson, Donna Comeaux, Sarah Johnson, Meg Manning, Cindy Bailey, Cathy Dyer, Donna McBroom-Theriot, Theresa Nelson

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Ruby for Women is an online Christian women’s magazine that offers words of hope, inspiration, and encouragement to women everywhere. Knowing that every woman has a story to tell, we seek to give a “voice to every Christian woman,” from all walks of life, of every age, from all around the world. For advertising inquiries, please contact Nina Newton at editor@rubyforwomen.com If you would like to share your story with Ruby for Women, please email our Assistant Editor, Amanda Johnson, at ajohnson@rubyforwomen.com Also, please visit our blog at www.rubyforwomen.com where you can connect with other Christian women. Ruby for Women 1 2731 W 700 N Columbia City, IN 46725 editor@rubyforwomen.com


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What He Could Have Said (Part 2) Lanette Kissel

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The Greatest Story Ever Lived Rhea B. Riddle

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A Reason to Celebrate Bel Thomson

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Ask Me Anything, Lord Heather King

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Ask Beth Beth Brubaker

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A Song for the Close of Day Connie Arnold

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Daily Devotions Kristi Burchfiel

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Lead When There’s a Need Michelle Lazurek

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Hexagon Puzzle Beth Brubaker

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Ordinary? Lanette Kissel

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A Change of Heart Donna Comeaux

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Candy Cane Bark from the kitchen of Katherine’s Corner

The Happy Housewife Chapter 12: Love, Love, Love Elizabeth Baker

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Five Whispers Every Mom Should Hear Theresa Ceniccola

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Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning in the War Against Pornography by Jay Dennis and Cathy Dyer review by Sarah Johnson

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Holiday Bliss Patrice D. Wilkerson

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Footprints in the Mud: Losing it in More Ways than One Beth Brubaker

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Brightly Fallen Keith Wallis

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Letting Go of the Past, Looking to the Future Jennifer Workman

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Word Grid Puzzle Beth Brubaker

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Divine Healing Linda M. Crate

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Being a Woman of Advent Meg Manning

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Christmas Gathering Sharon L. Patterson

A Small Detail in the Christmas Story Cindy Bailey

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Love and Light Connie Arnold

Take Time to Smell the Roses Dorothy Kurchak

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Christmas Wish in a Bottle Cindy Bailey

Building a Foundation of Faith Theresa E. Nelson

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When Mercy Met Truth Sharon L. Patterson

In Tribute to Hindsight Sharon L. Patterson

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Summoned by Bells Keith Wallis

Before I Say “I DO” Jennifer Workman

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Christmas Cookie Story Donna McBroom-Theriot

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The War on Christmas Advent Book Tour

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Hexagram Puzzle and Word Grid Puzzle Answer Keys Beth Brubaker

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Meet the Ruby Writers

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Credits and Copyrights

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Disturbing the sleep of sheep Keith Wallis

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Watershed Moments Cathy Dyer

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Fabulously Fluffy and Festive Feather Wreath Katherine Corrigan

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Ruby for Women Magazine and Blog We want to hear your story, because God has given a voice to every Christian woman.

Please visit us at the Ruby for Women blog and share your story with us! * * * *

Daily inspirational posts Featured bloggers FREE seasonal online magazine Crafts, recipes, poetry, and stories

We would love to hear from you! www.rubyforwomen.com

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Celebrate Jesus . . . . He is the reason for the season!

Christmas Day

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The Sacrifice of a Servant’s Heart by Nina Newton, Sr. Editor

It happens to me every year at Christmas time, and I suspect it happens to you, too. We are suddenly reminded that Christmas is just around the corner and we begin the annual anxiety attack. Every other month of the year we manage to get by, somehow, even when the budget is stretched to its breaking point. But Christmas has a completely different effect on us, because we realize that just because there is a gift-giving holiday in this particular month, there really isn’t going to be any more money in the paycheck this month. But somehow we always figure out how to do what we feel is important for our family, and we get through another Christmas. Now that’s not exactly the way I would prefer to remember Christmas, but as a mom, that’s just part of my reality. And for many of us, that’s the way it has always been. We all survive, and the kids grow up and they don’t even remember the year they desperately wanted the latest “whatchamacallit” and we just couldn’t afford it right then. We all lived through those Christmases when times were tough. But that’s not the biggest challenge of Christmas for those who have a servant’s heart. That’s because at Christmas time all of the needs in the world around us are brought more clearly into focus. Oh, we know there are needs everywhere we look . . . . the homeless shelter, the Mitten Tree at church where we can “adopt” a needy family from our community, the bells ringing outside of the grocery store and the big red buckets. The neighbor kids who don’t have boots or mittens and it has been snowing for three days . . . the single mother with five children who stands in line at the local food pantry . . . . the daddy who can’t find a job and make enough money to feed his family much less buy them Christmas presents. And on and on and on and on it goes. The needs are all around us, all the time, but at Christmas somehow there is a stronger tugging at our heart strings.

Well, that is, if we have a servant’s heart and we really and truly want to help others. So, in the midst of all of the anxiety over getting through one more Christmas without a clue how we are going to do it all, now we have one more burden on our hearts. We cry out to God, “Help me know how to do this! There are so many who need Your love, and they need warm coats, and boots, and hats, and mittens, too!” If you have ever found yourself in this place of wanting desperately to reach out to help others, but realize that (maybe for the first time in your life) YOU are actually the one who is in need, you will recognize how agonizing this time of year can be. If you have a servant’s heart, but you have nothing to give, this is your sacrifice. Perhaps this time it is your gift to others to allow them to serve you. That’s hard to accept if you have always been one who has been able to give and do for others. But God does not place all of responsibility on your shoulders, or mine, for every need in the world. Look around you. If there is a need and you can minister to another person, then that is a door that God has opened for you. But if you are the one who is in need of encouragement, love, friendship, or food, warm clothing or shoes, winter boots and mittens . . . then that is the door God has opened for someone else. Do not prevent that other person from expressing the love of the Lord to you, offered from their servant’s heart. It is a sacrifice of a servant’s heart when you want to give but you cannot. It is your gift to the servant’s heart of another when you graciously accept their sacrifice of love Be a blessing to someone this Christmas season, whether in giving or in receiving! 5 “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17


A Matter of the Heart by Amanda Johnson In reading about the kings of Israel, scripture is always quick to point out whether the king did things “right in the eyes of the Lord”. Those who ruled according to God’s law enjoyed a rewarding reign while those who did not follow God’s law suffered much loss. 2 Chronicles 25:2 says King Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not wholeheartedly.” Amaziah was a smart king and he knew from example that those who followed the Law were rewarded. His head was in the game, but his heart wasn’t. This is made clear when he brings the false gods of a defeated army back to Judah to worship (2 Chronicles 25:14). How many of us are acting like King Amaziah?

We know in our head, through the things we have been taught, that Jesus is the Messiah, but do we believe this with our heart? We may be able to recite scripture from memory, tell the story of Jesus from birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and so on. But, are we hanging on because of knowledge stored in our head? Or, do we hold on to Jesus because we have fully committed our hearts to Him? The truth is, being a Christian isn’t a matter of the brain, it’s a matter of the heart. When we believe with our mind and our heart, we open ourselves up to a relationship with Jesus Christ. We desire to serve Him and we start to live our lives in a new light because of His light shining within us.

Holiday Entertaining Entertaining with Velata!

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When the Carolers Came Cindy J. Evans

It was a cold bitter night at the county nursing home, many were feeling sad, many felt all alone... their rooms seemed dreary, lacking Christmas cheer, they felt lost, forgotten, missing friends who weren't near. When suddenly, softly...could it be...? Sweet sounds in the hall, telling of joyful glee! Yes, there they were, dressed in their Christmas best-men and women singing serenely 'bout the babe so blest! Singing about a King, no longer a stranger, singing about a King, born in a manger! The elderly looked on, their eyes blurred with tears, when they couldn't come to it, Christmas had come near! "We three kings of Orient are..." (their voices filled the room!) "bearing gifts we traverse afar..." (their voices chased away the gloom) and as best as brittle bodies could, they leaned towards the hopeful sound, glad for this music ministry and the carolers who came around... Precious in their pajamas, wishful in their wheelchairs, some bundled in beds and cradled with cares, all in awe watched each singer with a songbook and a smile who had stopped to share Jesus and His love song for a while. 7


In Defense of the Much-Maligned Fruitcake by Gloria Doty As the Christmas season approaches, we are inundated with ‘fruitcake jokes.’ The fruitcake has been the object of derision since time began, it seems. They have been described as bricks that can be used to build a wall or used for doorstops. We see pictures of them being used as the ball in the family football game. They are the gift that keeps on giving because everyone who receives one re-gifts it to their worst enemies. No one would ever elect to receive a fruitcake as a gift if they had a choice. The proverbial ‘find’ in the middle of summer is the fruitcake someone hid behind the couch and forgot. I’m not certain when or how the fruitcake gained this sad reputation, but I feel I must defend it; at least the fruitcakes I remember my mother making when I was a child. They were moist, dark with spices, and full of candied fruit, walnuts and raisins. She only made them at Christmas; probably because that was the one time of the year she could find the small containers of candied fruit in our small local grocery. I can see her stirring the batter with a large spoon, in a ceramic mixing bowl. Occasionally, I would be allowed to add the walnuts she had previously picked out of their shells and chopped into tiny pieces. She would add the raisins and the candied fruit and mix some more. Before she even began the mixing, she would grease the bottoms and sides of small bread pans. Then she would cut waxed paper to fit in the bottom of the pans. She would measure the batter, which was lumpy from all of the goodies in it, so each cake was exactly the same size. The aroma in our kitchen was almost palpable; however, there wasn’t any point in my waiting until they were done, because they were not for us to eat; these were for company. My grandmother lived with us, and because she had 9 children and many, many grandchildren, we would have lots of visitors during the holidays. My mother would put a tray of her baked goodies on the table. The trays held many varieties of cookies and sweets she would only make at Christmas. These included springerlies, lady fingers, wedding rings, date bars, butterscotch cookies and iced animal cutout cookies. The carefully sliced fruitcakes would be on another tray. When the guests left, there would be a few cookies remaining, but there was never even a crumb of fruitcake left on the tray. Everyone wanted some of Frieda’s fruitcake. Perhaps if it were possible for people to have a piece of my mother’s fruitcake, they would stop maligning them. 8


Still Looking: Finding the Peace of God in Job Loss by Vicki Huffman Book Review by Daphne Tarango When I first submitted my family’s unemployment story to Vicki Huffman, I offered to write a review of her book once it was completed. Only God knew the reason and the season in which I would need to read the inspirational words in Still Looking: Finding the Peace of God in Job Loss. When I received Vicki’s book to review several months later, my husband had been once again laid off for no fault of his own. Already, four weeks had passed since the day he showed up for work at his industrial construction job on a Monday morning and everyone had been let go. We were just starting to go through the familiar emotional, practical, and even spiritual fallouts of losing a job when I received the book. As I read through her family’s struggles with job loss—eight in all, I kept tapping the pages of my electronic book reader, saying: “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel. That’s exactly how my husband is responding.” Vicki was able to tap into those feelings not only from her own family’s experiences, but also by citing renowned psychologists, experts, and everyday people who had the dubious honor of being unemployed at one time or another. She compared unemployment and job loss to the stages of grief and how those who are unemployed—for whatever reason—face similar feelings as those who have experienced loss of any kind—health, death, divorce, to name a few. Vicki walks readers through the stages of grief, helping them to see the connections with job loss and how they eventually can move forward with the help of God. As I read Still Looking, I began to see stages of grief in my own life, but for different reasons. Last year, I resigned from my corporate job at a Fortune 500 company to become a stay-at-home mom of our three children whom we adopted. Although a joyous occasion for my husband and me and for our children, I felt the loss of fellowship with coworkers, usefulness and productivity that come from completing projects, and the accolades that accompany great work. I was able to see and work through these issues by reading Vicki’s book. She also helped me to understand the pros and cons of women working outside or inside the home, depending on their circumstances. In addition to the emotional issues accompanying unemployment, Vicki offered practical and spiritual insight for times of job loss. She gave tips on how spouses can help and affirm each other during unemployment. As I re-read our own stories that we submitted to Vicki, it reminded me of the many ways my husband and I have supported each other during these times and how we can continue to do so. 9


Still Looking is filled with practical and spiritual insight on how to spend time during job loss, as well as other considerations that accompany unemployment, such as the possibilities of relocating and self-employment. Vicki also offers a unique perspective for those who are older and find themselves unemployed. I especially liked the “P.S. - Post Job Script” sections that summarized each chapter and provided practical tips on how to move forward in recovery from unemployment. The “Peace to You” sections encouraged me with biblical passages and reminders of the peace of God when money is tight. Oftentimes, books on difficult subjects tend to provide trite answers. Not so with Still Looking. It is fresh and original; Vicki Huffman has been there and she gets it. From beginning to end, Vicki shows the joys of growing closer to God during times of financial strain. She is a great example of finding true peace during unemployment. If I had one critique, it would be this: I would have liked for the book to include a set of study questions, whether at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book. That way, readers could work through the issues in each chapter more readily. Regardless, I highly recommend Vicki Huffman’s Still Looking: Finding the Peace of God in Job Loss. It is a great tool to help readers through the valleys of unemployment not once, but as in our case, several times. Still Looking is ideal for anyone who has a job and feels like it may be time to move on to another job or season in life, or they sense that unemployment might be imminent. It is a great resource for Bible study groups; readers can use it by themselves, with a mentor or counselor, or in a small group format. People in recovery groups also could benefit from it. The book also would be a great gift for someone working through issues of financial struggle. Still Looking: Finding the Peace of God in Job Loss is available on Amazon. About Daphne Tarango: Daphne Tarango is a freelance writer who comforts others with the comfort she has received from God. Daphne is a recovery speaker and writers’ group president. She has published numerous inspirational articles in print and online magazines, including the collection of inspirational stories and personal moments with God, Women of the Secret Place. Daphne is married to Luis and in the past year, has resigned from corporate life to become a stay-at-home mom of three adopted children. To connect with Daphne, visit her blog: http://DaphneWrites.com.

eâuç cxtÜÄá A A A A Ä|ààÄx zxÅá Éy ã|áwÉÅ? }Éç? tÇw ÜxÅxÅuÜtÇvx àÉ uÜ|z{àxÇ âÑ çÉâÜ wtç4 December 6 is Mitten Tree Day! Set up a Christmas tree and invite friends and family to donate mittens for those in our community who are less fortunate. It will not only be a gift to others but it will 10 be a blessing in your life, too!


Create your own

Vintage Jewelry Holiday Necklace by Katherine’s Corner It’s amazing what you can create from odds and ends of “stuff” that you already have around your house. This gorgeous holiday necklace was made using a stash of vintage beads, gems, jewelry, and buttons. Arranged in a beautiful design and then glued securely on a felt backing, all that’s needed is a bit of ribbon to tie around your neck and you have a stunning holiday necklace! If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind design to wear to your next holiday party, create your own Vintage Jewelry Holiday Necklace with this tutorial from Katherine’s Corner. What you need: • Assorted glass gems, beads etc. • Scissors • 2 Felt square 8 x 10 • Pencil or disappearing-ink marker • Fabric glue

• • • • •

Ribbon in desired color Invisible thread (optional) Parchment Paper Dictionary, heavy book or a brick wrapped in cloth Camera or camera phone

Let’s Make It! Lay the felt square on a flat surface and place the jewels and gems where you would like them on the felt. Take a photograph using a camera or camera phone. Using a disappearing ink pen, draw around the gems. Remove the gems and cut the felt where you marked it for the backing. Then cut another piece to match using the first piece as your template Using your photo as a reference, arrange gems on the fabric starting at the center and working outward. Carefully coat the back of each gem with glue and adhere each one to the fabric. Place parchment paper on top of the gems then place the dictionary on top of the parchment paper as a weight and let dry (make sure no glue is leaking out of the sides ,(you do not want to glue the parchment paper to the necklace) Cut ribbon into two equal-length pieces, these pieces will determine the length of your necklace. Glue ribbon to each end of fabric for ties. Let dry. If desired, turn necklace over and use invisible filament thread to anchor the gems and the ribbon. Coat second the second piece of felt with thin layer of glue and cover back of necklace, hiding the thread and the ribbon ends. Using sharp scissors (or a craft knife) carefully cut away extra fabric if needed. 11


Homemade Cranberry Sauce from the kitchen of Marie Dittmer at Healthy Ideas Place Cranberry sauce is traditionally served at Thanksgiving, but when we discovered this recipe on Marie’s blog, Healthy Ideas Place, we just had to share it with our readers! Not only is it a healthy alternative to the canned cranberry sauce that you can buy at the grocery store, it is easy to make and it’s so pretty, too. Make up a batch of this Homemade Cranberry Sauce for your holiday table – and be sure to visit Marie at her blog, Healthy Ideas Place, for lots more healthy hints and recipes for your family all year long. What you need: • • • • •

12 oz. can frozen 100% fruit juice concentrate (I used cherrypomegranate) 3 c. fresh or frozen cranberries (12 oz. bag) 1 apple, cored, peeled, and cut into chunks 1 peeled orange, sectioned 1 pkg. unflavored gelatin (about .25 oz.)

Let’s make it! 1. To make the syrup, empty the frozen fruit juice concentrate into a small sauce pan. 2. Bring to a boil using medium to medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. I put the pan in the refrigerator while I made the rest of the cranberry sauce. 3. Place the cranberries, apple chunks, and orange slices into a food processor and blend until smooth or until desired consistency if you like cranberry sauce with larger pieces. 4. Add cooled fruit juice syrup to the cranberry mixture and pulse all ingredients together. 5. Pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle unsweetened gelatin on top, stirring to evenly distribute the gelatin. 6. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled the next day. Makes 3½ cups. 7. *My family liked the sweetness the fruit juice concentrate gave to the sauce. But if you prefer a sweeter cranberry sauce, it can be sweetened more with your choice of sweetener. Serves 6 – 7 All photos from Healthy Ideas Place. 12


Nowhere to Live by Lynn Mosher I grieve when I fail the Lord, when my obedience lacks its first response. But then I remember it was for failures that Christ graced a rough-hewn manger. It was for failures that He breathed His last earthly breath as He hung in disgrace for the failings of the world. It was to a failure, one who penned the precious psalms that touch our hearts in time of need and, yet, as a man after God’s own heart, sinned and ripped apart his fellowship with the Lord, then repented and repaired it. It was to a failure, one who had denied Christ three times, that the command of “feed My sheep” was given. It was to a failure that Jesus gave His first greeting in the Garden of Gethsemane on that initial Easter morn. It was to a failure when one who had been the foremost despiser of believers yet became one of the greatest servants of the Gospel, the Lord blessing his ministry and his writings for all time. I think, no, I know my greatest failure is to not give the Christ-child a place to live in my heart, in my circumstances, in all my life. He came… As Mary lovingly swaddled the future Sacrifice of the world, she placed Him in a trough, and there, the miracle of the manger took place: the empty manger, the vessel cradling the tiny body of mankind’s salvation, became full - full of love, full of expectation, full of holiness, and full of humanity. With only the joyous display of heavenly praises from angels, He came, confined by the boundaries of time and limitations of a physical body. …for failures, He came. For me, He came. For you, He came. But where does He go to be born and live today? In the hearts of believers. “How silently, how silently the wondrous Gift is given! So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” (Third verse of “O Little Town of Bethlehem”) Have you offered the manger of your heart to cradle the birth of the Babe of salvation? Or are you as the innkeeper, turning away the Savior of the world, telling Him that you have no room for Him, that your “inn” is full? Do you then miss the miracle of the manger? God still seeks His mangers…hearts willing to hold Him. For you . . . He came!

Christmas blessings, Lynn 13


ZÜtÇwÅtËá g{ÉÜÇÄxáá lxÄÄÉã eÉáx by Elsie (Mimi) Spurlock The light was shining on her snow-white hair and I thought, as I was sitting there, she looked as stately as a queen. Wisdom shone upon a face serene, totally at peace with the world. She smiled and her fingers gently curled around the stem of a yellow rose. "Grandma," I said, "Don't you suppose we should put the rose in a vase?" I watched a smile light up her face. "No, I'll just hold it for a while." And again I saw a wistful smile. "But the thorns are making your fingers all red!" "Yes, I know," she simply said. "It reminds me of a rose long ago, so fair, your grandfather picked to place in my hair.” "He pulled off the thorns; his fingers bled. Love's best sacrifice, all written in red." I leaned down to kiss her small, salty face, Wrinkled by years, seasoned with grace.

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Keeping it Real this Christmas by Heather King

My dad always insisted on a real tree. Sometime in December, we wandered around the Christmas tree lot, everyone searching for the one perfect tree full of pine needles and vibrant green. Somehow we always chose trees that were fat and wide and typically too tall for our ceiling. When we hauled the tree home, my dad had to lop off the bottom until it fit in the stand. Some years, we still couldn’t top it off with the angel or star. There was always the lingering suggestion that perhaps it would be easier and cheaper and neater to tuck an artificial tree away in the garage and just pull it out of the box each December. But for my dad, this suggestion would destroy Christmas. here are no substitutes for a real tree, he’d say, despite my mom’s suggestion to burn pine-scented candles or potpourri. This, after all, was his only contention—that no matter how good an artificial tree looked, it would never smell the same as a real tree. Christmas smelled like pine. I think about my dad and how he made us all trek every year to choose the real Christmas tree. Mostly, I think about him while I’m pulling the various wired limbs of my own artificial tree out of the box. I’ve never been a convert, per se, to the need for a real live tree that smells like real live pine. I’m more of a sucker for convenience and control and a bargain. Yet, as I hunkered down inside my wool coat and pushed through the wind into the Wal-Mart the other day, I lightly brushed the branches of a Christmas tree leaned against the front of the store. And there it was…the scent of pine carried on cold air. It was real. All of those years growing up with sticky sap-covered branches, pine needles scattered on the carpet and my parents crawling under the tree to water it, I never truly “got it.” I never once smelled the scent of pine that my dad loved so much. It took the incidental brushing against a tree on the Wal-Mart sidewalk for me to understand the appeal…and to breathe deep the air and think of the beauty and feel newly reminded that Christmas is here. 15


I understand the desire to make Christmas powerful and lasting. For many of us, we’re just trying to stay Christ-focused and giving-centered. But we set ourselves up for failure at times by trying to heap on so much to make it “really” Christmas.

Perhaps we need reminders because it’s so easy to forget. In fact, sometimes we’re so busy trying to “remember” that we bury ourselves deep in endless tradition-making, busyness, activity, have-to’s and must-do’s that suck the life and energy right out of us. Oh, I understand the feeling like it just can’t be Christmas without…. For me, it’s not so much the scent of the pine tree as the sound of the Christmas music. We played it all season when I was a child. But every time I flick on the radio for the “all-Christmas all-the-time,” my own kids protest. They balk and whine. Why can’t we just listen to the same ten songs we like and listen to every other time of the year? My daughter complains for an entire half-hour drive, slumps herself in the back seat of the mini-van and announces, “Well, I won’t sing to it.” Kind of sucks the joy right out of the carols. And I understand the desire to make Christmas powerful and lasting. For many of us, we’re just trying to stay Christ-focused and giving-centered. But we set ourselves up for failure at times by trying to heap on so much to make it “really” Christmas. Why not make this new tradition and that….read this devotional, light these candles, do these acts of kindness, bake these goodies, sing these songs, visit these places, take these pictures, make these crafts…..all in one year. All of that effort to make Christmas seem real, to infuse it with magic and memories. Yet, truly it’s just a simple thing. So, we can breathe in and breathe out and relax into the celebration. The angels said it simply: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11). What more is needed? All the rest we can do or not do. We can enjoy, but not stress about. We can choose the live tree or pull out the fake one in the Rubbermaid container. We can sing. We can bake. We can light the candle and make the gift. We can pop the popcorn and watch Rudolph or Snoopy or the Grinch. Or not. It doesn’t change Christmas. Christ is all we really need for that. 16


Gingerbread Houses – A Traditional Holiday Treat

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Gingerbread baking in Grandma’s kitchen brings back childhood memories of Christmas past. The delight in the little ones’ eyes when they see the brightly decorated gingerbread boys and girls make the holidays truly magical. But the gingerbread house that sparkles in the candlelight with candy gems and jelly drops is the most marvelous of all the Christmas decorations.

Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries. In some places, it was a soft, delicately spiced cake; in others, a crisp, flat cookie, and in others, warm, thick, steamy-dark squares of "bread," sometimes served with a pitcher of lemon sauce or whipped cream. It was sometimes light, sometimes dark, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, but it was almost always cut into shapes such as men, women, stars or animals, and colorfully decorated or stamped with a mold and dusted with white sugar tomake the impression visible. The term may be imprecise because in Medieval England gingerbread meant simply "preserved ginger" and was a corruption of the Old French gingebras, derived from the Latin name of the spice, Zingebar. It was only in the fifteenth century that the term came to be applied to a kind of cake made with treacle and flavored with ginger. Ginger was also discovered to have a preservative effect when added to pastries and bread, and this probably led to the development of recipes for ginger cakes, cookies, Australian ginger nuts and flavored breads. The manufacture of gingerbread appears to have spread throughout Western Europe at the end of the eleventh century, possibly introduced by crusaders returning from wars in the Eastern Mediterranean. From its very beginning gingerbread has been a fairground delicacy. Many fairs became known as "gingerbread fairs" and gingerbread items took on the alternative name in England of "fairings" which had the generic meaning of a gift given at, or brought from, a fair.

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Certain shapes were associated with different seasons: buttons and flowers were found at Easter fairs, and animals and birds were a feature in Autumn. There is also more than one village tradition in England requiring unmarried women to eat gingerbread "husbands" at the fair if they are to stand a good chance of meeting a real husband. 17


Of course, you could always visit Elizabeth Botham & Sons, a family-run craft bakery on the North Yorkshire coast of England, and sample some authentic pastries. If you lived in London in 1614, your family would have gone to the Bartholomew Fair on August 24. Of the special cakes prepared for holidays and feasts in England, many were gingerbread. When a fair honored a town's patron saint, e.g., St. Bartholomew, the saint's image might have been stamped (and even gilded) into the gingerbread you would buy. [PHOTO CREDIT]

And if the fair were on a special market day, the cakes would probably be decorated with an edible icing to look like men, animals, valentine hearts or flowers. Sometimes the dough was simply cut into round "snaps." Gingerbread-making was eventually recognized as a profession in itself. In the seventeenth century, gingerbread bakers had the exclusive right to make it, except at Christmas and Easter. Their street cries could be heard well into the nineteenth century, but in 1951, writer Henry Mayhew sadly recorded that "there are only two men in London who make their own gingerbread nuts for sale in the streets." Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the one with the longest and strongest tradition of flat, shaped gingerbreads. At every autumn fair in Germany, and in the surrounding lands where the Germanic influence is strong, there are rows of stalls filled with hundreds of gingerbread hearts, decorated with white and colored icing and tied with ribbons. If you lived in Nuremberg in 1614, your family would have gone to the Christkindlmarkt in December. You would have bought carved Christmas decorations, special sausages, and the famous Nuremberg Lebkuchen flavored with ginger, which you probably would have thought was the best in the world. Nuremberg gingerbread was not baked in the home, but was the preserve of an exclusive Guild of master bakers, the Lebkuchler. Nuremberg became known as the "gingerbread capital" of the world and as with any major trading center, many fine craftsmen were attracted to the town. Sculptors, painters, woodcarvers and goldsmiths all contributed to the most beautiful gingerbread cakes in Europe. Gifted craftsmen carved intricate wooden molds, artists assisted with decoration in frosting or gold paint. Incredibly fancy hearts, angels, wreaths and other festive shapes were sold at fairs, carnivals and markets. [PHOTO CREDIT]

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Lebkuchen are made throughout Germany and large pieces of lebkuchen are used to build Hexenhaeusle ("witches' houses," from the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, also called Lebkuchenhaeusel and Knusperhaeuschen—"houses for nibbling at"). Nuremberg merchants, in fact, were so well known for their spices that they had the nickname "pepper sacks." From early on, Nuremberg's Lebkuchen packed into one recipe all the variety of flavorings available to its bakers—cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, anise and ginger.

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The traditions in France were closer to the German than the English ones, with noteworthy recipes for pain d'epices coming from Dijon, Reims and Paris. In 1571, French bakers of pain d'epices even won the right to their own guild, or professional organization, separate from the other pastry cooks and bakers.

In Paris a gingerbread fair was held from the eleventh century until the nineteenth century at an abbey on the site of the present St. Antoine Hospital, where monks sold gingerbread cut into the shape of pigs. During the nineteenth century, gingerbread was both modernised and romanticised. When the Grimm brothers collected volumes of German fairy tales they found one about Hansel and Gretel, two children who, abandoned in the woods by destitute parents, discovered a house made of bread, cake and candies. By the end of the century the composer Englebert Humperdink wrote an opera about the boy and the girl and the gingerbread house. At Christmas, gingerbread makes its most impressive appearance. The German practice of making 'lebkuchen' houses never caught on in Britain in the same way as it did in North America, and it is here still that the most extraordinary creations are found. Elaborate Victorian houses, heavy with candies and sugar icicles, vie in competition with the Hansel and Gretel houses, more richly decorated and ornamented than most children could imagine in their wildest dreams. Gingerbread making in North America has its origins in the traditions of the many settlers from all parts of Northern Europe who brought with them family recipes and customs. By the nineteenth century, America had been baking gingerbread for decades. American recipes usually called for fewer spices than their European counterparts, but often made use of ingredients that were only available regionally. Maple syrup gingerbreads were made in New England, and in the South sorghum molasses was used. 19


Regional variations began occurring as more people arrived. In Pennsylvania, the influence of German cooking was great and many traditional Germany gingerbreads reappeared in this area, especially at Christmas time. The North and Midwest of America welcomed the Northern and Middle Europeans. At Christmas it is still very common in the midwest to have Scandinavian cookies like Pepparkaker or Lebkuchen. Often one can find wives holding "coffee kolaches" (coffee mornings) at which European ginger cakes still reign. [PHOTO CREDIT]

Nowhere in the world is there a greater repertoire of gingerbread recipes than in America —there are so many variations in taste, form and presentation. With the rich choice of ingredients, baking aids and decorative items the imaginative cook can create the most spectacular gingerbread houses and centerpieces ever. For more interesting stories about the history of gingerbread, visit the website: http://www.worldrecordgingerbreadhouse.com/history.html Visit Ruby’s Reading Corner where you will find books on creating your own gingerbread house this holiday season!

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What He Could Have Said (Part One) by Lanette Kissel Author’s Note: This poem is based on Mary’s encounter with Simeon. (Luke 2:2135). It is the author’s imagining of what might have happened during the encounter between Mary and Simeon. Mary, of Simeon… In Jerusalem, we came upon a man named Simeon, a learned prophet, whom we were destined to meet. I would have to say, the moment our eyes met, I noted my heart suddenly skipped a beat. There was something foreboding in the man’s expression that caused me to want to look away. He knew much more than he was willing to tell. I had to wonder what more he could say… Simeon, of Mary… Her youthful, happy smile, so full of expectant hope. Barely more than a child herself, I wondered how she would cope. I saw something more in her eyes. There was also a trace of fear. Did she suspect I could tell her things a mother’s heart would be afraid to hear? I could tell of events she would rather forget, also of ones to ponder and keep, of times she would feel such pride and joy, of times she would learn how to weep. Though this aged man has been given some special insight from the Lord, I did not divulge all I could have said. I only mentioned something about a sword. 21


What He Could Have Said (Part Two) Simeon – What I could have said… Your Son will only be yours for a little while. You won’t be traditional mother and son. Because your Jesus is the principle in a greater plan, because He and the God of Heaven are one. You’ll find the boy will grow so quickly. Enjoy each moment with Him while you can. He will soon leave to begin His ministry. For your Jesus is as much God, as He is man. Your Jesus will be the absolute epitome of love, if I were to sum Him in a single word. Never has a mother had reason to be so proud. His life will be the greatest story ever heard. The reactions to his teaching will be varied. Some will embrace His message. Some will not. Men in high places will be jealous of Him. And against Him, they will consort and plot. A Roman soldier’s sword will pierce His flesh. That same sword will also pierce your heart. Events will happen that are beyond your control. Happenings in which you will have no part. His life and ministry will be short-lived. He will never live to see an old age. But an infamous Book will be written about Him. His name will be featured on nearly every page. Just know that history will be kind to you. You will have played a most important part. You are the beloved mother of the Messiah. 22 This you can treasure within your heart.


A Reason to Celebrate Stories from the road; a traveling musician shares her journey by Bel Thomson Balloons, presents, candles and those extra special, crazy birthday glasses (yes, it’s a tradition; every family member must wear them on their birthday!). It was my husband’s birthday and I enjoyed planning a special celebration. His birthday fell on a Sunday in December, so in between a pancake breakfast and heading off to a romantic B & B for the night, we went to church. During the service I realized: it is almost Christmas - Jesus’ birthday! I was moved remembering God’s love and the fact that He came to earth to seek me out; the Lord, born in a stable, lying in a manger. I felt God whisper “celebrate Christmas”. I felt Him encourage me to worship Him by making a fuss and truly celebrating this season just as I had done for my husband’s birthday. So I made a list of ways to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, and worship Him this Christmas season: *Take the time to enjoy a walk at the beach, mountains or any place that shows His beauty. Enjoy His creation and the splendor He has made. *Give Jesus a birthday gift! Make an extra donation in the church offering or to a charity, as a special gift to Him. Giving a gift is a tangible way we show our love to each other- and God- on His birthday! It also reflects how He gave us the gift of His Son at Christmas. *Skip a meal, and use the time when you would have prepared and eaten the food to thank God for the blessings He has given this year. He is ultimately the one who fills us. *Thank Him for friends, family, and specific blessings He has given this year. Make a list! Then reflect on previous years, and thank Him for His provision and guidance, and His presence and faithfulness in difficult seasons. Celebrate how good He is and take time to say thanks! *Write a card to a family member, and be grateful for God’s gift of family. Remind them why you love them, and thank them for the blessing they are to you. *Bake some yummy food, and enjoy the feast of Christmas! This is a birthday party after all! Will you join me in truly celebrating this Christmas? Will you make time amidst the noise and shopping to worship and enjoy Him, and celebrate His birthday just as we would for our own special family members? The Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Have you thought what gift you will give Him this year? I hope you will join the party! 23


Ask Beth by Beth Brubaker Dear Beth, I'm doing deep cleaning for the holidays, but I just can't get all the sticky, stubborn grease off of my appliances without scrubbing! Is there any way to do this without harming the surfaces?

Scrubbing in Sacramento

Dear Scrubbing, Yes! I've found a great way to do this! I was helping to clean an elderly woman's kitchen and her microwave door was barely see-through. The build-up on the outside of the door was so bad, I had to do this several times before the door was clean, so depending on the amount of grease, you might have to repeat each step until the surface shines. All you need is some grease-cutting dish soap (Dawn or Joy works best) and a yellow and green scrubbing sponge that is safe for non-stick surfaces. Squeeze a small amount of the soap full strength into your hand and smear onto the greasy surface. Use your fingers to rub it into every spot (except where there are vents) and let sit for at least 15-30 minutes (you can go clean other areas while you're waiting!) Run the sponge under hot water, squeeze until damp, then using the green scrubby part of the sponge, lightly scrub away the soap - the greasy goo should come off with it!

Happy scrubbing! Beth

Ask Beth! Do you have a question about parenting, home making, organizing, friendship, or family? Ask Beth! Please email her at bethatruby@aol.com She would love to hear from you! 24


Daily devotions for every day of the month from Kristi Burchfiel DAY 1 VERSE: Exodus 21:23 – But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life. TRUTH: In the verses prior to this one, the Lord is telling them the consequences for striking a pregnant woman in such a way that either the woman or the baby have serious injury. The Lord values life, including the life of the one who has not yet been born. Do we consider the life of an unborn child as the same importance as the life of any other person? The phrase life for life implies that that the unborn child is on par with the life of the person who caused the injury. Do we value life of all kinds everywhere as much as God does? RESPONSE: Father, You place the life of a child who has not been born on the same level as the life of a person who has been born, that is the only way You can compare a life for a life. Give me a chance to share Your love for all life with everyone. DAY 2 VERSE: Exodus 22:29 – Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. TRUTH: God has blessed us so much and He has allowed us to have so many things. He is worthy of our praise through our offerings and sacrifices, yet sometimes we are reluctant to give Him all praise and offering that He is due. Are we stingy with our giving? Do we give openly and freely and with joy from the possessions that God has blessed us with, regardless of whether it is money or other physical possessions? God is worthy and He commands us to give. RESPONSE: Father, this is not a suggestion, but a command. I pray that You will be blessed and praised as a result of giving back to You. I love You and I acknowledge that everything is Yours anyway. 25


DAY 3 VERSE: Exodus 23:22 – If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. TRUTH: As we are following God and being obedient to Him, we are not left defenseless. God is our defender and He will be the one to stand up for us. We are simply to focus on Him and on following Him. He will take responsibility for dealing with those people who will inevitably oppose us. RESPONSE: Father, I do not have to worry about defending myself. You are the one that I adore and I will follow You and trust You to move in exactly the right situations and circumstances to see all that I go through and to defend me from those who oppose me because of You. DAY 4 VERSE: Exodus 24:16 – and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. TRUTH: God came down to meet with Moses. He came as a cloud that enveloped the mountain. When it was time, God called to Moses to come to Him. God is calling us to come meet with Him. He desires a relationship with each of us. He wants to show Himself to us. Are we looking for Him? Are we willing to go where He is in order to meet with Him? RESPONSE: Father, Your glory is seen in so many ways in this world and You are calling me to meet with You. I will come and answer Your call. I desire to see and meet with You. DAY 5 VERSE: Exodus 25:2 – ”Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give.” TRUTH: The Lord told Moses to take up an offering. This was a special offering and wasn’t to be considered mandatory, but it was a voluntary offering where people were to give only if their hearts had prompted them to give. The Lord does not always mandate that we give, however, sometimes He moves in our hearts to prompt us to do something more. Are we aware of that prompting? Do we listen or pay attention for other things that God is laying on our hearts to do? These are not accidents or stray thoughts, but are the prompting of God. RESPONSE: Father, You give us the opportunity to choose to give. You provide each of us certain areas and ideas that we are able to take and give based on Your promptings. Please give me a soft heart to recognize Your promptings and Your leading so that I may be involved in everything that You desire for me to be. I don’t want to miss or ignore Your prompting. 26


DAY 6 VERSE: Exodus 26:30 – Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain. TRUTH: God had a plan. He gave them the details to that plan; all they had to do was follow the plan. God gives us a plan and we are to obey and follow. Do we? The Lord is simply asking for obedience. Do we give it? RESPONSE: Father, You have provided us everything that we need and we just have to follow the plan that You have. You are amazing and You desire to have all that I am. I will follow You. DAY 7 VERSE: Exodus 27:20 – Command the Israelites to bring you clean oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. TRUTH: Everyone was able to participate in some way with the needs of the temple. While some were gifted to help with the weaving or the craftsmanship of building the temple, there were still plenty of other jobs that people could be involved in as well. These other jobs were of vital importance, too. Are we focused on doing what we can and what God has commanded us to do regardless of what it is or how important it may be perceived by others? RESPONSE: Father, I praise You and love how You have a place and a purpose for everyone. Thank You for helping me to see my role as important and necessary even when the world looks at it as unimportant. You have a place for me and I will be obedient to Your role for me. DAY 8 VERSE: Exodus 28:30b –Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord. TRUTH: The Lord gave several instructions to Moses regarding Aaron and his dress and garments. Aaron was to keep several things close to His heart as a symbol before the Lord. Now, through Jesus, we have the ability to carry in our hearts the means to make decisions before the Lord at all times. Do we turn to Jesus to make decisions for God? Are we following through on these decisions? RESPONSE: Father, I need You to make decisions in my life. Thank You for Your Son Jesus that I can have the ability to know Your will at all times and in every area of my life. 27


DAY 9 VERSE: Exodus 29:45 – Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. TRUTH: God desired to fellowship with the people. He brought them out of Egypt and gave them all the rules and regulations that He did so that He, as a holy and righteous God, could dwell among them and they could dwell among Him. God desires fellowship and relationship even today and He has provided His Son Jesus as a means to have that fellowship. Are we seeking after God to love and fellowship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ? RESPONSE: Father, I desire to have that close fellowship with You. Thank You for making a way for sinners like me to come before You and for You to dwell with me and fellowship with me. DAY 10 VERSE: Exodus 30:10 –”Once a year, Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.” TRUTH: Because the people are sinful and continue to do things that are wrong, God tells them that there must be an atonement each year. Something must stand in the place of the people to take the punishment that the people deserve for their sins. A price must be paid for their sins. This offering is holy to God. However, that sacrifice was not perfect, so had to me made year after year. Jesus Christ came as the one-time atonement for all people over all time. His sacrifice was most holy to the Lord. Have we accepted His sacrifice as our own? RESPONSE: Father, You gave the ultimate, one-time only, sacrifice through the perfect holy blood of Your Son Jesus Christ. He paid the price that I owed and He atoned for my sins. Thank You for Your permanent solution for my sin. DAY 11 VERSE: Exodus 31:3 – and I have filled him with the spirit of God, with wisdom and with all kinds of skills. TRUTH: God had just given Moses a listing of lots of work that He wanted done. But, He didn’t stop there. God also gave the ability to do the work. God gave His spirit along with the wisdom and skills needed to be able to complete everything that God had directed. God never gives us a job without also giving us the means to do that job. He is the One who fills us and directs us and, if we will trust Him, we will be able to do everything that God has for us to do. 28


RESPONSE: Father, when I see Your plans and the things You desire to do, I can get overwhelmed. Yet, You never give plans without also giving the means and ability to fulfill those plans. I will trust in You to provide the means, no matter what Your plan is. DAY 12 VERSE: Exodus 32:24 – ”So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” TRUTH: Sin seems to affect our memory. Aaron was explaining what happened while Moses was gone and his story sounds a lot like, “I don’t know what happened Moses. One minute the people were handing me their gold, then the next minute the gold made itself into a calf. We just started bowing down to it; it was all so strange!” It’s easy to forget or downplay our part in sin, especially when it’s found out by other people. When we do wrong, we must acknowledge our sin and admit our part in it. Confession means to call son what God would call it. The Lord knows what we have done, we can’t downplay or fool Him. RESPONSE: Father, You know all I have done and You still love me and forgive me. I will bring my sins to You honestly and confess them to You so that You may forgive and cleanse me. I love You. DAY 13 VERSE: Exodus 33:15 – Then Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” TRUTH: Moses knew that they needed to remain in the presence of the Lord. He wanted to go where He went, but he would only go if God’s presence went too. Do we look for and along with the presence of God? Are we adamant about staying in the presence of God? Sometimes we can get so distracted that we step away from God’s presence. How soon do we realize we’ve moved and how quickly do we return? RESPONSE: Father, Your presence is the only place I want to be. I want to be where You are and never leave Your presence. Keep me focused on You so that I never drift and leave Your side. DAY 14 VERSE: Exodus 24:39 – When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

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TRUTH: When we have spent time with God, there is always evidence of that. For Moses, his face shined with the radiance of God. Does our life shine with the glory of God because we’ve spent so much time with God and are seeking to follow Him in all that we do? Can others tell that we have spent time with the Savior just by looking at our lives? RESPONSE: Father, You are radiant and as I love You and spend time with You, while I may not literally glow, my life will shine as a testimony of the touch of Your glory in my life. I want people to see You when they look at me! DAY 15 VERSE: Exodus 35:21 – and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the Lord for the work on the tent of meeting for all its service, and for the sacred garments. TRUTH: Offerings and gifts to the Lord cannot be forced, they are to be given willingly and freely. The Lord moved the hearts of certain of His people to give at certain times and we are to obey that prompting. It doesn’t say that everyone gave, only those whose heart was moved. Has God been moving our hearts to give of ourselves to the work He is doing? RESPONSE: Father, I know that You move upon my heart to give money, time, and such to Your work. I pray You will continue to move as I give cheerfully and without hesitation. You are over all things and I delight in giving to You as You prompt me. DAY 16 VERSE: Exodus 36:2 – Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. TRUTH: As Moses was leading the people to complete the project that God gave him, he went in search of the people God had gifted with the talent to complete it. However, just having the God-given ability was not enough. The people were to also have the willingness to come and do the work. It doesn’t matter how much ability or talent God has gifted us with, if we’re not willing to come and do the work that God calls us to, the talent will not be used. Are we willing to do what God has for us to do? RESPONSE: Father, You gift each of us with talents and abilities to do the jobs You need done, but I must be willing to go and do that job. I will willingly go and do whatever You have for me to do in order to use the talents and abilities You have given me. 30


DAY 17 VERSE: Exodus 37:2 – He overlaid it with pure gold, both inside and out, and made a gold molding around it. TRUTH: The ark was made of such beauty and extravagance and yet, so few people were every going to see it. Still, that didn’t change the fact that the people were to do their best and most beautiful work for it using the costliest materials they had. When we are doing our work, whatever it might be, are we doing our very best work regardless of who will see it? Are we working as if we are presenting an offering to the Lord and as if the product of our time and effort is for His pleasure and review alone? Regardless of who sees or doesn’t see what we do, we are to do the very best that we can do in everything that God gives us to do. RESPONSE: Father, I don’t know whether my work will be seen by millions or just by You, but I will do the very best I can in everything You give me to do as a praise to You. You are worthy of the best that I have and I will not be distracted by wondering who else will be able to see whatever I am doing. DAY 18 VERSE: Exodus 38:8 – They made the bronze basin and its bronze stand from the mirrors of the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting. TRUTH: The basin that they created to be able to wash was created out of bronze and mirrors. The people had to look at their own reflection as they were washing and preparing to enter. Do we look at our own reflections as we prepare to worship? We are only able to truly cleanse ourselves if we take a good look at ourselves and our reflection as compared to Jesus Christ. RESPONSE: Father, please help me to see myself as you see me so that I can thoroughly repent to You and allow You to cleanse me. Without Your help, I will never be able to see my reflection clearly. DAY 19 VERSE: Exodus 39:43 – Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them. TRUTH: Obedience leads to blessing. When we obey the Lord and follow His commands in our life, He will bless us. Why do we sometimes expect His blessings when we have not been obedient? We are to be obedient to the commands of God because we love Him and our obedience demonstrates our love to Him. His blessings back to us, in whatever form they take since not all blessings are money, demonstrate His love for us. 31


RESPONSE: Father, You have blessed us in so many ways and I strive to be obedient to You. I love You and want to show You my love. I thank You that You reciprocate Your love to me through all the wonderful ways You’ve blessed me. DAY 20 VERSE: Exodus 40:36-37 – In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, and they would set out, but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out. TRUTH: When God moved, they moved. When God stayed put, they stayed put. The people made no movement unless it was first initiated by God, and even then the movement was just a mirroring of how God moved. Do we mimic God’s movement? Are we only moving when and how He directs us? Are we looking at Him in our life and moving as He sees fit? RESPONSE: Father, I will move when and how You move and I will stay when You stay. I love You and desire to be right with You, no matter what You do for me. You are the only one I will follow, so close my eyes to any distracting movement from anywhere else, including my own self. I will praise You and follow where You lead.

DAY 21 VERSE: Hebrews 1:2 – but in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. TRUTH: The writer of Hebrews is showing right off the bat in this book that Jesus Christ is different from all the prophets who came before. In fact, there is a significant difference between them as the prophets were how God communicated to His people in the past and now, during these last days since the birth, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, God speaks to us directly through Jesus Himself. Jesus is far greater than any prophet; He was made heir of all things and was the means through which God created the universe. He is the Word (John 1:1-14) and God spoke and created all that we know (Gen 1:3). Do we acknowledge the power and position that Jesus holds in our life and in the universe as a whole, as well as the power and position in our life? RESPONSE: Father, You have created all things through Your Son Jesus Christ. He is the One You have set over all things and have chosen Him to be the One to share Your message to the entire world. 32


DAY 22 VERSE: Hebrews 2:18 – Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. TRUTH: When Jesus came to earth, he retained 100% of his divine and holy nature, so He was able to walk through temptations without falling. In addition, he was also 100% fully human and so suffered the same pain and struggles that we experience when going through temptations. He was tempted to do wrong and because he was fully human, he knows the fear, anguish, and suffering that goes along with being tempted. Because he has been there, in every situation, and been victorious through those situations, we can trust Him to help us and to walk with us through the temptations in order to be victorious and overcome all that Satan tries to distract us with. RESPONSE: Father, I praise You and can’t begin to tell You how I love that You walk alongside me through everything that I am tempted with. You understand and are victorious in every situation and can give me the strength I need to be victorious through temptation as well. DAY 23 VERSE: Hebrews 3:1 – Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. TRUTH: What are we fixing our thoughts on? What fills our mind and our focus? Is it the stresses of work or the pressures of the home? Is it family concerns or financial worries? Our focus is to be Jesus Christ all day, every day, all throughout the day. Does He preempt every other thought that comes through our mind? If not, we must take back our mind and make a conscious decision to fix our thoughts on Jesus Christ. RESPONSE: Father, let nothing distract me today. I will choose to keep You in the forefront of my mind no matter what as I seek to move through the day with my focus fixed completely on You. DAY 24 VERSE: Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. TRUTH: When we are facing dark and difficult times, what do we need more than anything? We need God’s mercy and grace. How do we receive these things? We receive them by approaching the throne of grace with confidence. When we are in need and downtrodden that is often when it is hardest to have confidence, yet we can be assured that our Father loves us and will hear our pleas and bestow mercy and grace upon us. We can always come to Him confidently, knowing that He will answer and respond to us, just as He has promised, and give us exactly what we need to make it through. 33


RESPONSE: Father, forgive me for believing the lie that I am not good enough to come before You, especially when times are difficult. You are where the answer lies and You are always there with exactly what I need to make it through. DAY 25 VERSE: Hebrews 5:8 – Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered. TRUTH: Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, learned obedience from going through suffering. He learned what it was to experience pain and problems and hindrances to obedience, yet He continued on in the obedience, yet He continued on in obedience. How do we learn obedience? We learn obedience the same way Jesus learned, through suffering. When we go through suffering, are we learning obedience through that time or are we just enduring suffering? RESPONSE: Father, suffering is hard, but it is the way in which You teach obedience. I pray You will continue to work with me through suffering and help me to be obedient to You in every situation. DAY 26 VERSE: Hebrews 6:15 – And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. TRUTH: This verse is such a simple way to describe several verses of struggle and hardship for Abraham. People reading this might think it sounds like God promised, Abraham waited, and then God delivered. While in essence that is true, going back to Genesis, we see that Abraham is promised to be the father of many nations in Genesis 12, but then Isaac isn’t born until Genesis 21. There are several trials and struggles that Abraham faced through those chapters. Still, the important part was that even though Abraham lost his way a couple of times in between receiving the promise and receiving the fulfillment, he never gave up on the promise of God. He had faith that God would do what He promised even when Abraham couldn’t see how and even when Abraham tried to speed God up a bit. As we go through our difficulties and struggles, are we holding fast to the promises that God has for us? Would someone describing our life be able to condense it down to this one verse, “after waiting patiently, (your name) received what was promised.” RESPONSE: Father, I don’t feel like I wait very patiently. I am so used to quick results and quick responses. I confess my impatience to You. Help me to have faith not only in your fulfillment of promises, but also in Your timing of that fulfillment. I praise You for all that You have done in my life and all that You are going to do and I pray that others looking at my life from the outside would see only my deep burning desire to wait on You. 34


DAY 27 VERSE: Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. TRUTH: Our salvation through Christ is complete and permanent. Why? Because Jesus Christ lives forever and He, in His perfection, has fully and completely paid the cost of the sin in each of our lives. For that reason, we do not have to worry about out-sinning God’s ability to forgive us. Each and every person who comes to God and confesses their sin is saved completely through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. RESPONSE: Father, sometimes I get too focused on my sins and not on your ability to overcome them. You are able to save me completely and I will focus on your complete salvation in my life today. DAY 28 VERSE: Hebrews 8:12 – For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sin no more. TRUTH: God is speaking here about the new covenant He is going to establish with His people. He indicates that He will forgive and not remember our sins anymore. Some people say, “forgive and forget,” but this goes even deeper than that idea. It’s not that He forgets our sin, but that He doesn’t hold them against us anymore. We are no longer held captive to the consequences of our sins. Instead we are free to live in the forgiveness of sin that He provides. That is such a wonderful place of freedom to worship and follow God. RESPONSE: Father, I thank You for Your loving care that forgives me as I confess to You and that You no longer hold my sin against me. I pray You will help me live each day in the freedom of Your forgiveness. DAY 29 VERSE: Hebrews 9:27 – Just as people are destined to die once and after that to face judgment. TRUTH: Death and then judgment, this is the way that God has set up the world. We are able to recognize that ideas of reincarnation and the like are simply not true based on scripture. We live, then we die, then we face the judgment that God has for us. As the verses before this state, the results of the judgment will be determined by our response to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with regard to our own sins. 35


RESPONSE: Father, You have made it very clear that once I die, I will face judgment and have to give an accounting of my relationship with You. I praise You for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which makes the way for me to stand before You. Thank You for Your provision.

DAY 30 VERSE: Hebrews 10:23 – Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. TRUTH: We have a hope that is true and that we can hold to because the one we put our hope in is faithful. God is the one who has promised to us and we can trust God to keep His promises. Because of this, our hope is grounded in the assurance that He will do everything exactly as He has promised. RESPONSE: Father, I can hope confidently and faithfully in You because You are faithful to Your promises to me. I will cling to Your promises knowing that You will do just as You say. DAY 31 VERSE: Hebrews 11:3 – By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so what is seen was not made out of what was visible. TRUTH: God made the universe out of nothing. He took and formed and created everything that we see, both near and far, from out of the nothingness that was before. How do we know this? We have faith that the words spoken by God both in Genesis and here are true. We cannot scientifically explain it, but we have faith that it is true because God’s Word says it. RESPONSE: Father, Your world is wonderful and amazing! You have created such beauty and detail. I can see Your designing hand in everything that I see. You created everything I see from absolutely nothing and I praise You for Your creativity and power. 36


Hexagon Puzzle by Beth Brubaker Hexes Puzzle Place all hexagons into the honeycomb below. The numbered sides should match its neighboring hexagon. EXAMPLE:

Answer key on page 119

Count 1, 2, 3 With Me by Connie Arnold “Connie Arnold takes us on a fun filled journey of rhyme and learning how to count to ten through different activities in Count 1, 2, 3 with Me lending a perfect opportunity to discuss what you think happens next. Connie does a superb job in keeping the attention of the reader through her expert rhyme and storytelling technique.” Visit Connie: http://www.conniearnold.webs.com http://conniearnold.blogspot.com/ http://www.childrenbooks.webs.com http://childrensauthorconniearnold.blogspot.com/ The whimsical illustrations created by Ginger Nielson add to the delight of learning rhyme and counting without feeling like you are learning. Count 1, 2, 3 With Me is now available from Ruby’s Reading Corner! 37


38


A Change of Heart A Christmas Story by Donna B. Comeaux

“I’ve decided to skip Christmas this year,” I said to my granddaughter, Angie, as I got on Highway 169 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“Nothing.” By the pensive look on Angie’s face, I understood she had difficulty processing my response. “What are you buying me?”

“Grandma, you did that last year.” Angie dropped her cell-phone-clasped-hands in her lap. Her brows furrowed as she stared at me. Due to the economy, the threat of furloughs, she hadn’t gotten anything from me last year. She probably wondered if I’d leave her off my Christmas list again this year.

“Nothing.” Angie giggled. Her fingers moved on the keys of her cell phone at a rapid pace. I don’t remember if I ever typed that fast during my years as a legal assistant.

“Last year was different. I didn’t have any money. This year, I don’t feel like shopping. I’m tired of trying to decide what to get everybody. Besides, I can’t think of a thing you don’t already have.” “Tickets to the Miley Cyrus concert.” Angie smiled, raising and lowering her eyebrows. Miley Cyrus. The young lady who’s trying to prove she’s not a little girl anymore. I saw pictures of her on the internet. She made the headlines and even got a spot on the evening news. I gnawed on my lower lip as I merged onto the Broken Arrow Expressway.

“Seriously. What am I getting?” Angie’s hands dropped to her lap. “I don’t know. What do you want?” “Hmm . . . Let me see. How about a pair of UGGs.” “Really, Grandma, I can’t see you in a pair of UGGs.” “How about a pair of diamond earrings?” “But Grandfather buys you diamonds all the time.” “Then why don’t you surprise me.” “But I don’t know what to get you. You have everything.” “My point exactly,” I smiled.

I tried to imagine being in front of a camera halfnaked when I was Miley’s age. That wouldn’t go over well. Though legally designated an adult at age twenty, my mother wouldn’t hesitate to slap me anyway. She’d ask questions later. I rubbed my face to feel the heat of the encounter, but my cheek was cool from the dry winter air. And momma had died fourteen years ago.

“But I don’t have tickets to the concert,” Angie declared.

“What are you buying grandfather?” Angie asked, interrupting my thoughts.

“Think I might get them?”

I wanted to crawl in a hole. “So, we’re back to that again?” “Wouldn’t it be cool?” “Cool?” 39


“As we turned into the parking lot, homeless men and women stood huddled outside the complex. The cold biting wind forced them to bundle themselves in whatever they could find —ragged afghans, army jackets, soiled blankets.”

“We need to come up with something more meaningful . . . less controversial. Your dad won’t be happy with me if I buy those tickets. And your grandfather would be appalled. Besides, I’m not comfortable with who Miley Cyrus is becoming. I mean — can you imagine her walking into worship service after that wrecking ball photo?” Angie laughed. “Think she’d convince everyone it was just a stunt to prove she’s all grown up?” “It worked didn’t it?” “So, you approve of her being half-naked in front everybody? Think that’s the way your daddy wants you to behave?” “Daddy would have a fit, Grandma. He’d probably drag me off stage and make Momma ground me for a year.” “Why do you suppose Miley’s daddy didn’t drag her off stage?” “Duh! She’s an adult, Grandma. All he can really do is be mad at her.” “I wonder what God thinks about Miley’s behavior?” After a moment, Angie moved her fingers across her cell phone. “He’s probably not happy.” “So, why should you get tickets for Christmas? Can you run that by me again?” Angie remained focused on her phone.

I got off the Broken Arrow Expressway and headed toward Fifth and Cheyenne. I had an idea. “Grandma, where are we going? The Tea Room is on Harvard.” “I know, but I thought since we’re this close to downtown, we might as well stop by the John 3:16 Mission.” “The Mission? Why?” “You’ll see.” As we turned into the parking lot, homeless men and women stood huddled outside the complex. The cold biting wind forced them to bundle themselves in whatever they could find —ragged afghans, army jackets, soiled blankets. I turned off the engine and got out. “You coming?” “How long are we going to be here?” Angie sounded apprehensive. “Not long,” I promised. “I just have a few questions for the administrator. Come on. We have to make it to the Tea Room so we can eventually get to the movies on time. Hurry! It’s cold.” Inside, the long hallway had a hint of Clorox in the air. The clean floors gleamed against the midday light streaming from an office window. At the end of the hall, someone stepped out of 40 a room then disappeared around a corner.


“Grandma,” Angie whispered, “why are we doing this? Are we going to come here instead of doing Christmas at home?” “Don’t you think that would be a great idea rather than spending so much money on stuff we don’t need?”

Another stranger walked toward us, left out the front door, and didn’t think to shut it. Fierce wind kept the door open for a moment, sweeping in leaves and an empty grocery bag before it finally slammed shut.

Angie folded her arms. “No,” she whispered. “How come we can’t write them a check and just leave?”

“Good morning. How can I help you?” a woman asked from behind a glass window.

“Exactly.”

“Good morning. I was wondering if you guys needed any help this year.” I followed the grocery bag rolling down the hall, grabbed it, and returned to the window. “What do you have in mind?” “Not quite sure. My granddaughter and I were talking about Christmas and wondering what we should get everyone. I’m not in the shopping mood this year. Not up to spending money on last year’s repeats. Know what I mean?”

“Well, if we do that, then we’re not involved . . . not connected.”

“What if you and I were disconnected? How would that make you feel?” “Here we go,” the woman said as she sat in her chair. “Why don’t the two of you come in and have a seat. Wait until you hear the door click before you open it.” The woman pressed a button, the door clicked, and we went inside her office. “My goodness, you’re a pretty girl,” the woman told Angie as she removed the grocery bag from my hand and threw it in the trash. “Thank you.” Angie grinned.

“I sure do. You want to feel useful this year?” “And such long hair,” the woman said. I cocked my head. “Yes. Yes, we do. Don’t we?” I asked Angie as I turned and looked at her. She shrugged and frowned. “Give me a moment. I need to check my books and see where we need the help. I’ll be right back.”

“She’s a perfect blend of her mother and father,” I told her. “You’re not her mother?” “Oh, no. I’m Grandma.”

“Grandma,” Angie whispered, “why are we doing this? Are we going to come here instead of doing Christmas at home?”

“Wow! You don’t look a day over thirty.” “Ooh, I’m much older than that I assure you.”

“Don’t you think that would be a great idea rather than spending so much money on stuff we don’t need?”

41 “If they ever liquefy your genes, I want the first injection.” We laughed.


“Something told me if I wanted Angie’s priorities to change and be more on the Giver—God— and less on the receiver— herself, we’d have to change.”

“I have three openings to serve food on Christmas Day,” the woman said as she read from the list on her clipboard. “We expect 500 or more. It usually turns out to be an all-day event. I also need one person to wrap presents on December 23. And I need ten people to help distribute blankets, toiletries, and food under the bridges on December 24. Which one would you like to volunteer for?” “All of them.” “Grandma,” Angie whispered. “Are you sure? We don’t expect anyone to give up their entire holiday. If you want to work just one event, that’s okay,” the woman explained. “Yes, we’re sure. We want to participate in all of those events,” I said. “Are you coming with Grandma?” the woman asked Angie. Angie shook her head. “Oh, I’ll convince her. She’ll be there,” I said, reassuring the woman. “I’m also bringing my husband and son with me.” “Good. If you’ll fill out this form, I’ll give you a copy of the schedule so you don’t forget the dates, times, and where to be.” “Do you have a restroom,” Angie asked. “Yes, we do. Go through that door and make a right,” the woman said as she pointed across the room. After we signed up, we drove to the Tea Room in silence. I didn’t want to speak first. I wanted to hear Angie’s raw reaction to our serving others on Christmas, but she remained quiet.

Her mother and my son had divorced in the middle of the pregnancy. Though her mother remarried—Henry is his name—Angie’s an only child and is accustomed to receiving everything on her Christmas list. She collects presents from four different families each year. She gets so much that her classmates tease her for being a rich kid. Something told me if I wanted Angie’s priorities to change and be more on the Giver—God—and less on the receiver—herself, we’d have to change. The Tea Room had walls of exotic teas, teapots, teacups, tables for chess and checker games, books, and Christian music. Angie enjoyed sampling several teas until she found one she liked. As we sat and drank our tea, I pulled out a blue envelope and handed it to her. “Because you have been a diligent student this semester and haven’t caused your mother any fuss, this is for the four A’s and two B’s. I’m proud of you. Grandfather is also proud of you.” I leaned forward. “He’s bragging. I don’t think there’s a person in his office who doesn’t know about your grades this semester.” Angie laughed. “Thanks, Grandma.” “With that you can buy any of these teas or teapots,” I prodded. “Or maybe you can put the money in the bank and 42 save it for your school trip to Germany this spring.”


“Not knowing if she would actually participate in serving at the Mission, I prayed all day long for two days straight. To work off nervous energy, I baked pies, made cornbread dressing, cleaned, and gathered old clothes to bring to the Mission.”

Angie opened the envelope and counted the money, her grin getting wider by the second. “Oh, Grandma, this is enough to buy the Miley Cyrus tickets I wanted.” I was sick. I had forgotten about the concert. Sixteen and old enough to make her own decisions, I felt tempted to scold her and explain the money wasn’t given so she could go see halfnaked people on stage. Though I understood the greatest lessons learned were the ones experienced firsthand, I didn’t think Angie needed to experience this one. I worried about her choices. In my mind, she was still a baby, Grandma’s little girl. Deep in my gut, I knew I had to let her grow up. I wished this time hadn’t come so soon. In the end, I decided to keep quiet about the concert tickets. No lectures. No guilt trips. However, I had one last thing to add. “If you insist on buying those tickets, I want you to remember something.”

“Look, why don’t we forget about the concert for a while. We need to get going so we aren’t late for the movie.” After our granddaughter-grandmother outing, I brought Angie home and reminded her that she needed to be at my house at 9:00 a.m. on most of the days we were scheduled to work at the Mission. I promised myself I wouldn’t call her. I hoped she’d show up on her own. Not knowing if she would actually participate in serving at the Mission, I prayed all day long for two days straight. To work off nervous energy, I baked pies, made cornbread dressing, cleaned, and gathered old clothes to bring to the Mission. Since winter had finally settled in Oklahoma, I concentrated on coats, hats, gloves, leggings, my husband’s old flannel shirts, old work boots, and any extra toiletries I had laying around. By the time I finished, I had two boxes packed and ready to go. Christmas week, after our son, Michael, came home, we decided to go looking for a Christmas tree. As we backed out the driveway, Angie drove up. My husband, Barry, parked the car and we all got out.

“What?” “Does everyone at school know you’re a Christian?” “Yes, Grandma. Why?” “What reasons will you give them for going to that concert?” I paused, hoping the question would linger in her mind long after our day was over.

“Hi Daddy,” Angie said as she kissed her dad on the cheek. “Seems we don’t see you until your dad comes into town,” Barry said. “Grandfather, you’re just jealous.” “A little.” Barry pressed his thumb and index 43 fingers together to demonstrate.


“I got in the car and occasionally peeped at Angie in the rearview mirror. For some reason, she didn’t seem as unhappy as she sounded. I was a little puzzled by that, but I decided not to question her.”

He had a habit of treating Angie as a five-year-old. He spoiled her by taking her shopping, making her do meaningless chores so he’d have an excuse to give her money, and he’d listen endlessly to her frantic dismay over losing a friend.

“I’m going to be here with you, Dad. We’re planning to do Christmas at Henry’s parents’ on Sunday. I told Mom and Henry I’ll be busy after that.” “Doing what?” Michael asked.

By the time she turned fourteen, I thought she’d ask him to stop babying her. She never did. When she graduates from high school in two years, I suspect he’ll have the hardest time adjusting to her not being around anymore. “Where are you guys going?” Angie asked.

“Daddy, you know.” “I know what we’ll be doing,” Michael said as he pointed to me and his dad, “but what about you?” “We’re all helping out at the Mission, Daddy. You know that already.”

“To pick out a tree,” Michael said. “How do you feel about that?” “I’m coming.” She hopped in the back seat. “I think it’s cool.” “I thought you’d be off with friends shopping for the holidays,” I said.

“What about the Miley Cyrus concert?”

“I did that already. Pretty boring.”

“Not going.”

“But you like shopping. What’s the matter?”

“You’re not?” Michael asked, grinning.

“It’s not the same this year.”

“Nope.”

“I see.”

“Why not?” Angie shrugged. “Changed your mind?”

I got in the car and occasionally peeped at Angie in the rearview mirror. For some reason, she didn’t seem as unhappy as she sounded. I was a little puzzled by that, but I decided not to question her. After Barry and Michael got in the car, we headed to the Christmas tree farm. “Are you coming over and spending time with us for the holidays?” Michael asked. “Or will you be spending all your time with Henry’s folks?”

“Yeah.” “What did you do with the money Grandfather and Grandma gave you?” “Mom and I went to the thrift store and bought blankets. We also ran across this dollar store where we got canned soups on sale for fifty 44 cents.”


In that moment, I knew I needn’t worry about Angie’s ability to make the right choices in her life. God had everything under control.

She tapped me on the shoulder. “Grandma, I didn’t know you could buy kids’ toys at the dollar store. I thought they just had food. I wanted to buy toys for the kids, but momma said the people at the Mission would probably appreciate food and warm clothes.” “She’s right,” I said. “We also bought toothpaste and tooth brushes. I wanted to buy scarves at the mall, but momma said they were too expensive. So, I’m making four scarves—two for the men and two for the women.” “But, Angie, how are you going to get that done in the next three days?” I asked. “They’re easy. I use these large knitting needles. I can get two done in one day. I have two already made. I picked up some cheap pillows too. And you ought to see the gloves I got for three dollars. I want to make hot chocolate and bring it with us when we hand out blankets under the bridge on Christmas Eve. But I don’t know how I’ll keep it warm. Wouldn’t it be nice to have marshmallows on top? Oh, and I saw a used microwave for $50. Momma said if I help her with housework for a week, she’d give me the $50 and I can buy the microwave. It’s for the kitchen at the Mission.” I turned and watched the excitement in my granddaughter’s face. “How did you find out they needed a microwave?”

“When I went to the restroom, I saw a lady fussing over it. She was really mad. She kept hitting the start button, but the microwave wouldn’t work. She looked like a homeless person. We also saw these cute little umbrellas for kids . . . and cheap bars of soap . . . tennis shoes for four dollars . . . .” I looked at Michael, then at my husband. We had tears in our eyes. I had to turn away before I lost control. In that moment, I knew I needn’t worry about Angie’s ability to make the right choices in her life. God had everything under control. “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard. I Will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?” Matthew 21:28-31 ******************************************************** Donna B. Comeaux resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, Glenn. Together, they have two wonderful children and five grandchildren. It has been her lifelong passion to become a writer. After working many years as a legal assistant, she is absolutely thrilled she can now write full-time. She draws her inspiration from her life, the lives 45 of others, the news, and her wild and vivid imagination.


VtÇwç VtÇx UtÜ~ yÜÉÅ à{x ~|àv{xÇ Éy ^tà{xÜ|ÇxËá VÉÜÇxÜ Some people call it candy cane or peppermint bark, others call it peppermint brittle. Whatever you call it, I know you’ll call it yummy. Great to fill holiday tins with and give to friends and neighbors, too! What you need: • 6 oz. chocolate-flavor candy coating (chopped) • 3 oz. milk chocolate bar (chopped) • 6 oz. vanilla-flavor candy coating (chopped) • 3 oz. white chocolate baking squares (chopped) • 1/4 cup (about four) peppermint candy canes (crushed) • Baking sheet (should accommodate a 10 x 8 rectangle) • Foil • 2 Small saucepans (thick bottomed) or double boilers • Spatula Before You Start Line a large baking sheet with foil. Let’s Make It! In a small saucepan or double boiler, melt chocolate-flavor candy coating and milk chocolate bar, stirring over low heat until smooth. Pour onto baking sheet and spread into a 10×8-inch rectangle; set aside. In another saucepan or double boiler, melt vanilla-flavor candy coating and white chocolate baking squares, stirring over low heat until smooth. Slowly pour white mixture over chocolate mixture on baking sheet. With a thin spatula, swirls white candy mixture into chocolate mixture. Shake baking sheet gently for even thickness. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes. Chill in refrigerator 30 minutes or until firm. Use foil to lift candy from baking sheet; break candy into pieces. Katie’s Tid Bits *Try substituting milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and/or white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter for candy coating. Makes 1-1/4 pounds. Store in air tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 46


December Book Review and Giveaway Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives by Jay Dennis and Cathy Dyer Book Review by Sarah Johnson Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives is an honest real-life look at what pornography can do to a marriage combined with the truths and tools to respond to this disease-like sin that affects so many today. I was very excited to delve into Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives. I only wish this book was published ten or so years ago. Early in my marriage I found out that my husband was struggling with this ugly addiction and had been for some time. We sought out counseling, worked through it together and separately, and came out understanding the erosive effect that pornography has on a marriage. We both agreed that our marriage was definitely worth fighting for and I am so glad we did. The past several years have been sweeter and more fulfilling than ever before. For those who are still struggling or even still fighting to remain free of this sin, Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives is an excellent resource because no one is alone is this battle! In her book, author Cathy Dyer shares about the night her world was shattered by the cold truth that her husband had chosen his addiction to pornography (and later drinking, partying, and drugs) over her and their newborn daughter. She includes actual journal entries that she wrote as she dealt with her grief and betrayal, crying out to God as she came to terms with the thought of being a divorced, single parent. I don’t want to spoil the journey, but let’s just say both marriage and God win in the end! As Dyer writes, “I knew our roots ran deep, and I trusted in our God, who has our best interests at heart.” Dr. Jay Dennis, pastor of a large church in central Florida, shares in his portion of the book the “50 Things You Need to Know about Pornography.” Some of the these include: The average age of first Internet pornography exposure is between 10 and 11 years old, the word pornography means “writings about prostitutes” (hello Fifty Shades and Magic Mike), and one that really hit me like a ton of bricks was pornography defiles rather than enhances marriage. In this day and age, some well-meaning counselors would recommend that a couple view porn together to spice things up in the bedroom. Dennis explains, “That would be like inviting a thief into your home to teach you the value of your possessions.” He also shares many ways a woman can fulfill her husband’s need for intimacy and how to approach your husband about the issue of pornography.

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Another chapter that got my attention was “What to Tell Your Son about Pornography.” We live in such a technology rich time where the Internet is just a swipe or a voice command away, and our sons are going to need to be equipped with the truth, as uncomfortable as those discussions may be. Dennis does a fantastic job of expressing the threat that this “silencing sin” is to our marriage, children, families, and churches worldwide. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman who is looking to protect and fight for her marriage and/or encourage her husband to remain porn free. It is very well written, relatable, and inspiring. Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives is just one installment of the Join 1 Million Men in the War against Pornography series. Visit www.join1millionmen.org to learn more. This book is also available from Ruby’s Reading Corner.

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December Book Giveaway Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning the War against Pornography

eâuç cxtÜÄá A A A A Ä|ààÄx zxÅá Éy ã|áwÉÅ? }Éç? tÇw ÜxÅxÅuÜtÇvx àÉ uÜ|z{àxÇ âÑ çÉâÜ wtç4 December 7 is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Take some time to thank a Veteran for their service to our country and don’t forget to honor those who have fallen in the past, especially those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. December 25 is Christmas Day! Don’t forget to stop and say a HUGE thank you for our Father God for sending His Son Jesus Christ! You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within 48 Bob Nelson, Writer


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Holiday Bliss by Patrice D. Wilkerson As the holidays are upon us Being cheerful should be an absolute must Let’s give thanks for all that we have And continue down the righteous path Cozy up by the fireplace Let the aroma of hot chocolate brighten up the place Sing songs and laugh, just have a good time Don’t let anything stress your mind Be blissful during the winter holidays And spread love and joy forever and always 49 © 2013 by Patrice D. Wilkerson


Footprints in the Mud Losing It In More Ways Than One by Beth Brubaker The other day I was looking in the mirror and was surprised to see I was going platinum blonde. Not just a few hairs, mind you, but a plethora resembling a pale blaze upon the front of my forehead. As I was closely examining this phenomenon, my son steps up behind me. “Wow Mom, you have gray hair. That means you're gonna’ die soon.” “Oh thank you son that makes me feel so much better.” Leave it to my teen to lay things out so succinctly! I let him know my appreciation with a love swat to the back of his grinning head. But it was true. I was getting a gray blaze right in the middle of my forehead. It didn't help that my hair is thinning too. My own words began to haunt me when teasing my balding older step-brother years back. “Hey, at least you don't have to worry about going gray!” I jested. Now the joke doesn't seem as funny, unless you ask my kids or my step-brother. I keep wondering who that aging lady is in the mirror. Oh it was fine and dandy when people kept guessing my age wrong (in my favor), but now the wrinkles are showing and people are either becoming better guessers (which I doubt), or I'm beginning to show my age. In fact, the other day I was with my husband and this young little checkout girl asked if I was his mother. Egad. If it if wasn't for the bursitis in my hips I would have hurled myself over the counter and given her a lesson in manners. But all I could do was sit on the bench and threaten her young life with my glare, which she chose to ignore. It didn't help that I have too much insulation on my bones. Extra weight also adds years. So now I'm old, fat, wrinkled and gray. And I'm only in my mid-forties! I know I'm not too old to reverse this course of aging (or at least slow it to a stand-still), but to start all over with a new diet and exercise plan is not something I look forward to! Okay, so if I lose the weight the bursitis will go away (as it has in the past), and I'll look younger and feel better. I might even be able to leap gracefully over the counter next time I meet Checkout Girl. But, the hair loss? I'm not so sure about that. After some thought, I might be able to get away with a comb over provided I comb everything from the back upwards. A few barrettes and some super-glue might just do the trick! And my hair in the back hasn't changed to gray, so that might solve the 'I'm gonna’ die soon issue too! All I have to do is make really big, fluffy bangs, and I'm golden. I'm also going to stop looking in mirrors. 50


Being a Woman of Advent by Meg Manning The four weeks before Christmas, a time when Christians celebrate Advent, can be some of the busiest, most hectic, stressful weeks of the year. How can we as women, who are busy cooking, cleaning, entertaining and checking off a dozen to-do lists, be women who celebrate fully the meaning of Advent? To answer the question I would look at the first woman of Advent: Mary. Mary listened, trusted, believed, waited and praised. I believe that these are five keys to having a blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas. Mary listened to the heart and word of God. In Luke 1, we read, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” Mary was listening for the angel, who brought the news that she would indeed give birth to the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). She could have turned away scared, but instead she listened. Then when she arrived at Elizabeth’s, she listened as Elizabeth told her that the child within her was of God. In the hustle and bustle of the season, it may be hard to pray and even harder to listen in prayer. However, we are called to listen. We probably won’t encounter any angels, but God is still speaking to our hearts. We have to remove ourselves from the noise and quiet ourselves before the throne of God. When we tune-in to God, who knows what message He will have for us. I challenge you to be receptive to God’s voice, take some quiet time and listen. Trust. It is difficult thing in the world today, but Mary trusted. Mary trusted that she was not just dreaming. She trusted that an angel appeared to her. Mary trusted that she would give birth to the Son of God. The bottom line is that Mary trusted God. Do we? Take time, pause and think about that question. Your knee jerk reaction is yes; however, I challenge you to really look at your trust level. Would you trust God if you heard that you were going to have His Son? Would you trust God if He took everything you knew and flipped it upside down? Trusting God can be very difficult. We know that God exists; yet we cannot touch Him and it seems hard to feel or hear Him. Trust of God can be pushed to the limit when things are going poorly or there are unwelcome surprises in life. The holidays can push relationships to the breaking point, even our relationship with God. This Advent season we should remember who we are and whose we are. Trust the maker and trust that this season truly is about Him. 51


I can recite the Apostles’ Creed without thinking about it. “I believe…” that is the core of our creed. Mary believed God. The most bizarre thing that had probably ever happened to Mary and yet we read no words of doubt. Mary believed what Gabriel told her. Mary believed the message of God. Do we believe everything that God says to us and about us? How different would we be if we believed every word scripture had to say about who we are in God? We are royalty, heirs of the Most High. We must learn from Mary and believe the hardest things God has to say to us. Advent is all about waiting and anticipation. Mary waited nine long months before she held Christ in her arms. She waited for the promise to come true. God’s promises never fail and they are always present to the believer. We, too, are waiting. Waiting for Christmas, waiting for the oven to buzz, waiting to pick up the kids from school… we are constantly waiting. During the wait, we should be seeking God. Waiting produces patience. Finally, Mary praised God. This one seems like a no-brainer. Of course, we should praise God during Advent. However, I think about the words of Mary found in Luke 1:46-55, “ And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.’” Mary receives the shock of a lifetime—she was going to be a mother without ever laying with her husband, and yet she praises God in the midst. This is a time for gratitude and praise. Watch for reasons to give God all the praise that you have, that your soul may magnify the Lord. I pray that this season finds you full of anticipation as you listen, trust, believe, wait and pray. Have a blessed Christmas season.

Meg Manning is a free-lance writer whose writings focus primarily on theology, the history of Christianity, and the role of women in the church. She studied at Indiana Wesleyan, and Wesley Seminary. She has been writing since her sophomore year in college. Writing is her calling and her passion. You can read more of Meg’s articles on her blog, Wayfarer Pondering. 52


Christmas Gathering by Sharon L. Patterson Christmas…a time of gathering Gifts for others, with a smattering of time in between. Before we turn our focus on decorations to be seen; cards to be sent, and planned activities with tradition in mind. Repetitions from years past, future expectation of every kind. We gather our memories as we wrap our hearts With deep-seated longing for brand new starts. Heavenly hosts gather in the sky and proclamations in song are heard Above fields of bleating sheep, Shepherds hearts are stirred To follow the angelic host to a small humble place Where they gather to witness a tiny babe’s face The long promised Savior of all mankind; As he opens his eyes to find The gathering of angels and shepherds standing in awe Who worship him in an animals’ stall The mother is near gathering her thoughts Wondering what is ahead for the gifts just brought. Kings bow and extend their wealth, Avoiding the dangers of Herod’s stealth They leave a different way than they came Outsmarting the old fox at his own game. Gifts given with no thought in mind Except adoration of the highest kind. This gift from God is like no other That could ever be given by fathers and mothers. Delivered from heaven to the womb of humanity This babe will bring sanity To a world that loses its mind time and again Not understanding when God has reached out his hand With salvation’s offering to every man. So, we gather some 2000 years since then Knowing that because of the giftwe can begin again. This year we will add new memories and tuck them in our hearts Along with the assurance there will be room for new starts. Like the shepherds, the angels and the kings We will join our voices as each of us sings The quietly listens to the age-old story Of the babe, God’s love and salvation’s glory.

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Love and Light by Connie Arnold Love and light, together as one, revealed to the world through God’s own Son, came that first Christmas, long ago beaming from heaven to the earth below. Love burst forth onto the earth as a brilliant star marked the spot of Christ’s birth. The heavens were filled with a radiant light as angels came to the shepherds that night. The glory that streamed from heaven above was a beacon of God’s marvelous love. As love and light pierced the darkness of earth, the world changed forever at Jesus’ birth. The love and light that the Lord displayed is shimmering still on all He has made. When we open our hearts to let it in the beauty of Christ will shine from within.

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Christmas Wish in a Bottle Ornament Craft Tutorial by Cindy Bailey My mother saved some of those little bottles for me, the one that you get at Cracker Barrel with maple syrup in them for your pancakes. They are so cute! I just couldn't toss them out, so I removed the labels and started thinking. Keep an eye out for tiny bottles. Sometimes vanilla flavoring comes in one. Also, vintage bottles are still very plentiful and cheap at flea markets and thrift stores, some 50 cents or $1 and they are so quaint! I found a whole box of about 40 little bottles at our local flea market for $5. Some were not very clean. I found that a small paint brush works pretty well at cleaning them, along with vinegar and baking soda. Removing labels is easier if you score them with a sharp paring knife and then soak in hot soapy water. "Goo Gone" takes off stubborn adhesive. It won't matter whether the bottles have lids or not. This could become an annual tradition! Make new ones each year. This would be great fun to do with kids. They will have to write very small or of course or they can dictate to you. Try not to say anything about what they should wish for. The idea is to create a sort of Time Capsule which they can look at next year to see that they probably don't even care about what they wanted so badly last year! On the other hand, if they do wish for something more meaningful, they will feel very proud. It could become an annual tradition, adding another one each year as they grow. Hopefully their wishes will mature with them and will reflect a more spiritual level.

The idea is to create a sort of Time Capsule which they can look at next year to see that they probably don't even care about what they wanted so badly last year!

What you need: • Small, clean bottles, labels removed. • Ribbon • White or colored printer paper • Hole punch • 2 reinforcements to strengthen the punched hole in the paper • White glue • Glitter, optional • Fabric Scrap • Tinsel pipe cleaner

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Let’s make it! 1. First make the label. If desired print out what you want on the label, "Cindy's Wish List 2013," or

have your child write their own.

2. Cut out the paper for the label. 3. Paint the edges of the paper with glue and then dip in glitter (or sprinkle glitter on it). 4. Let it dry for a few minutes. 5. Meanwhile, start on the list. Cut a piece of paper to fit in your bottle. It will need to be rolled into a very skinny tube to fit. 6. This is the fun part. Let the kids write down their wishes. Or you could just have them pick one thing they want the most. Don't talk much, just listen. 7. Roll the paper tightly. 8. Punch a hole in the top corner and add reinforcements on each side. 9. Thread a long piece of ribbon through the hole and tie loosely, 10. Push the list into the bottle leaving the ribbon tails hanging out. Tie the tails to make a loop for hanging. 11. If you have a lid, put it on now, keeping the ribbon tails out. 12. Whether you have a lid or not, cut out a fabric circle with pinking shears. 13. Place it on the top of the bottle and secure with a small rubber band. 14. Twist a section of the pipe cleaner on to hide the rubber band. 15. Make sure to open them up next year when you're decorating the tree! See more ideas on her crafty blog: www.ChristmasOrnamentQueen.blogspot.com 56


When Mercy Met Truth by Sharon L. Patterson The gala promises to be the most spectacular gathering of the year. The Host and His Son sent out beautifully engraved invitations to an interesting array of quite varied people. A small embossed gold crown glistens by the name on every invitation. Much more than a lovely flourish, it is the signature touch recognized by each recipient who shares friendship with the Host and His Son. They are famous for holding events bordering on the heavenly. Anticipation runs high to say the least. Judging from the wide-eyed stares as I open the door to greet the arriving guests, no one is disappointed. The scarlet, royal blue and gold decorations are beyond amazing. I wear many hats in my service to the Host and His Son. Tonight, my job is one of my favorites as the connector and service director at tonight’s party. Ah, the first guests are arriving. I open the door to welcome each one who then hands me her creamy-white invitation. The condition of one of the invitations startles me momentarily; a worthwhile attempt has been made to straighten out what appears to have been severely crumpled at one time. I wonder what could have happened to it until I see the name. No further explanation is required. I totally understand what must have happened. Soon I finish greeting and receiving the invitations. It is now time to float around the room to check on the comfort of each guest and direct them to the room where several tables of treats await them. I stand next to the appetizers about to offer a plate of the delectable goodies when I notice an interesting ‘happening’.

Truth and her group of well-dressed, sensibly heeled girlfriends are carrying on a really intense conversation about what a righteous woman looks like today. Truth is always forthright and her voice lifts at the perfect pitch for others in the room to hear. Her manner is particularly commanding. All eyes in the room turn to her and every ear in the house tunes in. In a taut tone, Truth finishes her first statement that “Today’s righteous woman will always speak perfect wisdom to her friends from a mind guarded by parameters of truth even when what she needs to say may hurt! No one ever need guess what Truth believes - she always states her opinion with absolute clarity. From across the room I notice a lovely woman named Mercy cover her mouth, but not before an anguished gasp escapes her lips. The girls with her echo her pained astonishment at what they had just heard Truth say. These ladies are not dressed to the nines . . . the fashion is quite adequate but appears somewhat thrown together at the last moment as if they had to take care of something or someone before arriving at the gala. In the middle of the group a petite but rather sadeyed young woman asks Mercy for a tissue. Tears have made her mascara run down her chin. I wondered how she would do for she literally hung onto Mercy for dear life. Her head was down, avoiding any eye contact at all but even though it had been a few years, I 57 would know Trinity Grace anywhere.


Instantly, my mind retrieved my first memory of her. It was the year I volunteered to help teach the 5th grade Sunday school class she attended when she was eleven. Trinity had just become a Christian six months before but she already had a reputation among her classmates for memorizing more scripture in a week that the other girls could manage in a month. Goodness, how she loved the Word of God! Trinity zealously witnessed her new faith everywhere she went despite the adverse family atmosphere at home. Her heartache split between an alcoholic father and a terminally ill mother. She just grew bolder and stronger in her faith. She did well until the death of her mother. Her father grew more abusive than ever as his drinking took over what was left of his life. I followed her story and visited her frequently during those days to try and bring her as much encouragement as possible. Then, at sixteen, following a terrible beating one night by her father who lunged at her in a drunken rage, Trinity Grace left home and began wandering the streets. Lost, alone and brokenhearted, her story and her witness changed abruptly. I tried to contact her, but she would not respond to my calls or notes. She remained in my prayers even when I could not talk to her in person. She sold her belongings first and then she put herself on the market. Situation after situation, person after person took everything and left her with nothing but shame. Her heart became stony and her appearance lost all vibrancy of life over the next five years. Truth and her friends volunteered at the mission in the summer shortly after this Trinity Grace sought shelter there. Truth knew what she needed and proceeded to tell her in no uncertain terms just how to straighten out her life.

Everything Truth said was correct but her manner of delivery left much to be desired. No hint of compassion peaked anywhere in the lengthy sermon of right and wrong. The girl didn’t trust Truth even though she understood that Truth was right. Her life just hurt too much to try what she was hearing. “Girls,” said Truth, “We are wasting our time. We have come here three times a week for the past month and no matter what I say, Trinity just will not listen. She is obviously headed for a much deeper pit than she is in already. I have said all I can.” Then, as quickly as they had attempted to guide her, Truth and her friends abruptly abandoned Trinity Grace “to her sorry ways.”

Everything Truth said was was correct but her manner of delivery left much to be desired. No hint of compassion peaked anywhere in the lengthy sermon of right and wrong.” A couple of weeks later that same summer, Mercy and her friends also came to the mission. Truth and her friends did not return so their paths never crossed. Mercy and her friends were drawn immediately to the young girl with all their hearts. They listened to her horrific stories of the encounters with her father and then the list of men she had sold herself to. Oh, how Mercy empathized and sympathized. She listened for days, then months. She bought her things; all the girls let her stay at their homes free when it was too late at night for Mercy to check into the Mission. The more they did, the less Trinity Grace seemed to progress. If anything, she stayed just as 58 broken as she had been the first time they met her.


But still, they pursued to get her help from every church ministry around town. One day, about a month ago, the Son requested I make a special delivery at the Mission. In my hand was an engraved invitation addressed to the girl I first met as an eleven year old Sunday school girl. It had been a long time since our last visit and I was not certain she would remember me. However, the bewildered look in her eyes changed to vague recollection as I put it in her hand and left. She looked at the return address, crumpled the envelope with the gold crown next to her name, and melted into uncontrollable sobs. Across town, Mercy opened her mailbox to discover her invitation to the gala. She had barely opened hers when her phone started ringing off the wall. Her friends had all received theirs as well. Their excitement was as contagious as were their plans of what to wear.

They hurried to the mission. The swollenswollen-eyed girl lay on the thin mattress, tears still flowing down her cheeks. Next to her bed was the tiny somewhat shabby little table where she had tossed the waddedwadded-up invitation. Then, suddenly their thoughts turned to their friend Trinity Grace at the Mission. Surely the Host and His Son would not mind one more guest. The generosity they had always shown left no doubt of any other outcome but inclusion of their friend. It would do Trinity so much good if they could persuade her to go. Perhaps her self-esteem would improve. Mercy would lend her a dress and one of the other girls had a pair of shoes just her size. They would all pool their money and treat her to a haircut, style, and manicure.

They hurried to the mission. The swollen-eyed girl lay on the thin mattress, tears still flowing down her cheeks. Next to her bed was the tiny somewhat shabby little table where she had tossed the wadded-up invitation. The girls looked at each other in astonishment as they recognized the same invitation they had each received. There was an embossed gold crown on the envelope beside her name. They wondered at the connection with their friends the Host and His Son but soon turned to their excitement to the present purpose. The daunting task to convince Trinity Grace to go with them to the gala went on far longer than anticipated, but they were victorious in the end. She finally agreed to the haircut and manicure as well. At least they would not have to explain their extra guest to the Host and His Son. Mercy’s dress and her friend’s shoes fit perfectly. The haircut was a stunning complement to the contour of Trinity’s face. Her almond-shaped eyes, newly accentuated with miscellaneous makeup donated from the other girls’ cosmetic bags, could almost be called beautiful if it weren’t for her otherwise sad countenance. Glancing briefly in the mirror Trinity remarked, “It doesn’t feel natural, but, after all, you have all gone to a lot of trouble to get me to the gala. I’ll leave it alone.” With that statement, they all grabbed their purses and walked expectantly out the door to Mercy’s old reliable minivan she bought to take neighborhood children to church. With a prayer on her lips and fingers crossed, Mercy turned the key, checked to see that there was enough gas, and drove to the familiar address of the Host and His Son. Now, for the first time, they are all together at 59 the same time . . . Truth and her friends . . .Mercy and her friends, plus Trinity Grace.


Interestingly, neither group has affected significant change in the young woman’s life. She stands crying in Mercy’s circle of friends, feeling dejected and rejected by Truth, whose voice she remembers instantly with the first syllable out of her mouth. Despite Mercy’s hours of listening and doing so much for her, all that Trinity seems capable of is endless tears. The Host and his Son call me over to where they are standing and whisper in my ear. I already know what their request will be. I have worked with them for what seems eons of time. Walking over to Mercy and Truth I ask them to join me for a brief meeting with the Host and His Son. I am to be the go-between . . . another favorite service I enjoy. The Host and his Son just gave me permission to introduce Mercy to Truth. I chuckle, knowing that there is about to be another ‘happening’ that neither of them expect. Sure enough, in our presence it wasn’t long before they put away any preconceived opinions they had of one another. As the three of us watch silently, the two of them begin chatting and getting to know one another. I interrupt briefly to point out some common goals they each have. I show them not only one another’s strengths but how well they fit together when they work hand in hand.

Ultimately, they recognize that the total healing can only be complete through the Host and his Son. I will help facilitate that. It has been a few months now since the gala. The Host, His Son and I have watched with great pleasure the incredible transformation in Trinity Grace’s life that has happened since the crucial moment when Mercy met Truth. I understand she is back in church with plans to teach a class of eleven year old girls.

“Mercy needs Truth to bring proper boundaries concerning the timing of when to help and when not to. Truth needs Mercy’s more compassionate words to deliver her messages to others.” others.” “What? Would I like to volunteer to help in that class?” That will be my next favorite job.” “Do you mind if I ask both Mercy and Truth to join me?” The Host and His Son smile from ear to ear. I believe that is a resounding, ‘Yes!’

Mercy needs Truth to bring proper boundaries concerning the timing of when to help and when not to. Truth needs Mercy’s more compassionate words to deliver her messages to others.

Psalms 85:10 (KJV): “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

In what seems like the twinkling of an eye, the two begin to have a mutual admiration for one another.

Sharon Patterson, retired

The conversation ultimately veers toward the young woman they have both tried to help. They each admit their weaknesses in their attempts which have been based solely on their own ideas. They grasp the need to consult with one another and work together to help heal the broken places in Trinity’s life.

educator, career military wife, and leader in women's ministry, has written inspirational encouragement in various forms from greeting cards to short stories, poetry, and Bible studies for over thirty years. She has authored three books: A Soldier's Strength from the Psalms (2007); 60 Healing for the Holes in Our Souls (2008); and Where Is Happy? (2011).


Summoned by Bells by Keith Wallis ‘Summoned by bells’, not the majestic clanging of Sunday morning ‘come all ye’, but the tinkled heraldry and fascination of flame. The allure of cherub/angel spin draws the imagination and inquiry of enthralment.

A River of Small Stones by Keith Wallis A beautiful and inspirational book of poetry, perfect for gift-giving for every season of the year! Poems written as “small stones,” polished moments of paying proper attention to life Available at www.ariverofstones.blogspot.com

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Disturbing the sleep of sheep by Keith Wallis The afternoon nap foregone for grans and grandads and my mum heaven knows what I'd have done if it wasn't for nativity. If I'm supposed to be a sheep missing my post midday sleep I'll be the best sheep I could be and welcome the nativity. There'll be no dry eyes watching me and my school pals’ delivery we'll give this spectacle for free our annual nativity. And those who watch with laughing eyes however able, however wise will see right through this small disguise thankful for nativity. For as the years drip from the tree it’s not shopping makes it Christmassy but joining inspirationally this special nativity.

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Watershed Moments by Cathy Dyer

Watershed moments. They sneak into our lives and startle us with either horrible news or something wonderful. But no matter which it is, our lives are forever changed. In an instant, paradigms shift with all the force of tectonic plates, and the results can be beautifully creative or horribly catastrophic. Of course, the positive watersheds are glorious. We welcome them.

Maybe that’s what we need to add to Sunday School training: “What To Do When Life Smacks You” … smacks you so hard that you are stunned into inaction or you feel the urge to retreat. Instruction in that area could have helped me in my watershed moment. But that’s another subject. Why do we feel like we need to do everything on our own? That we could do more with our situation than THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE is an arrogantly stupid idea.

But what about their ugly counterpart: the unwanted, grossly deformed watersheds that take our well-ordered lives and flip them into disorder. What about those?

I know, I know: you are sitting there right now saying, I don’t think THAT! Sorry … but you DO.

The question isn’t – will I have an unwanted watershed moment; rather, the question is – how will I respond to the moment when it arrives?

If you are attempting to schlep through the muck and grime of your situation on your own, attempting to fix the problems life has handed you without calling on God, then you are subscribing to this “I’m strong enough” mantra.

When my ugly watershed moment arrived, I handled it horribly for 2 days. 1. In my state of shock, I refused to deal with it.

Don’t beat yourself up about it. I think we women buy into society’s feminist idea that we should “handle” these problems solo. I’m here to tell you … we shouldn’t.

2. I didn’t reach out to those around me but instead retreated within myself, hoping to wake from the terrible dream.

Cry out to God in your brokenness, admit you are powerless, and put all the broken pieces in His mighty hands.

3. I didn’t call on the God of my faith, whose stories had been told to me all my life, whose presence I had felt so often in my teen and adult years, whose answers were right there in that Bible on my nightstand.

After about 48 hours into my own watershed moment, I finally broke and cried out to God, finally remembered I had a Savior, a Creator who gave His life for me and certainly cared about me in my watershed moment.

I think I was so shaken by the watershed moment that I didn’t know what to do.

After I sobbed my plaintive prayer, a wave of relief overtook me, and then I remembered . . . 63


“So that is the lesson here: think back to the copious amount of assurances in the Bible that promise - not our smooth sailing, but our safe keeping. We are held in the hand of our God who, despite how dim our circumstance may be, has our eternal destination secured. THAT is a blessed assurance.” For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:12-14) “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:10-12) “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7) “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.” (Hymn lyrics by Civilla Durfee Martin) These verses and more came flooding back from my memory, from my churchly upbringing; but not until I left my solitude, my lonely retreat, not until I broke, realizing I couldn’t get through this alone.

So that is the lesson here: think back to the copious amount of assurances in the Bible that promise - not our smooth sailing, but our safe keeping. We are held in the hand of our God who, despite how dim our circumstance may be, has our eternal destination secured. THAT is a blessed assurance. Do you trust HIM – the God who formed the heavens and the earth, the God who set this world in motion, the God who sacrificed his perfect Son – to take care of you? It’s a simple question, and the answer should be simple as well. Put it all in His hands, DAILY . . . and then watch Him work.

Cathy Dyer is the co-author of Our Hardcore Battle Plan for Wives: Winning the War Against Pornography

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Fabulously Fluffy and Festive

Feather Wreath from the studio of Katherine’s Corner When I was decorating last week I wanted something fluffy and white to hang above the mantle. So I grabbed my glue gun and started making a wreath, with feathers! I hadn’t intended for it to be a tutorial so the photos are sparse. But you certainly will get the idea and you can make one too. This fun and easy craft only requires a few supplies: • • • • •

a large foam wreath ring feathers coordinating ribbon, my trusty glue gun a variety of embellishments

I had a very cute supervisor watching over every step.

I started by wrapping the wreath form with ribbon, then it was time to add the feathers.

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Before you think “I’m not about to glue a million white feathers on a wreath”… I used feather boas!!! I wrapped and glued, and wrapped and glued, and then fluffed and taa daa…it’s covered in feathers! I had originally planned to use some pearl sprigs. But, I had some gold beaded garland so I wrapped it (spacing widely) and then instead of a bow I added this fantastic silk poinsettia flower. I used a little extra boa for the wreath hanger, waste not want not I hung it above the angel on the mantel and I love it! That’s it, as we say here at home that’s a taa daa moment! So will you give this easy craft a try?

Visit Katherine’s Corner for more fun craft ideas and great recipes! 66


“The Greatest Story Ever Lived” by Rhea Riddle In the style my Great-Grandmother (Kentucky colloquialism) would have told me~ So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said, "A virgin will have a baby boy, and He will be called Immanuel," which means "God is with us"! As told in.....Matthew 1:22,begins the greatest story ever lived: And So... I’ve been told and have read for myself that it happened somethin’ like this: There was a young girl named Mary and she was in love with a young'n named Joseph and they're gettin' married soon. But one day a “Blessed thing” happened to Mary - she met up with an actual angel! Mary was full of wonderment and confusion which was OK for she was truly blessed, and she knew it 'cause the angel told her so. The angel said for Mary not to be frightened because God had taken mighty notice of her and He had thought she had done nice things, and that pleased Him real good Now along about this time things get a little excitin' for Mary ‘cause the angel told her a “great thing” - "You, Mary are goin' to be havin' a baby, a baby boy, you are goin' to be callin’ Him Jesus, and He is gonna to be great and God is gonna to claim Him and that will make Him "King." He told her many other things, causin' her to sit down and really think about it. A son with a Kingdom that goes on forever? No, not just her son but God’s Son! She must be dreamin'. “Wait a minute!" Mary just had cause to face the reality that she wasn’t wed, and she told that strongly to the angel. “Don’t be frettin’ now!” he said “God is gonna to take care of everythin', His spirit's a comin’ down with His power an’ that means your boy child will be the holy Son of God." Mary sat and pondered awhile and then she breathed out . . . long , “ I am the Lord’s servant, just let it happen!” Now Mary is gettin' happy and runs off to talk to her older cousin 'Lizabeth, who has had her own miracle 'cause she having’ a baby, too, even though it was way past her time for doing’ that. So, anyway, they have a real good visit and Mary tells her the NEWS.

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I’m sure she was thinkin’ that "Lizabeth would just call her a silly girl, but 'Lizabeth said “Nooo nothing’ is impossible with God, just look at me!” At that time the baby jumped inside 'Lizabeth's belly and she got “the revelation.” She told Mary how blessed she was and now she was a wonderin’ why one as important as the Lord’s Mother would come a visiting with her! “You know,” she said "God has blessed you ‘cause you do truly believe that He will keep His promise.” Well, all these happenin's brought songs out of Mary’s mouth and she was praisin' the Lord with all of her heart! She knew that He cared for her more than anythin' and He loved her mightily and lots of other folks, too. She sung of how holy He is and how good, merciful and full of power and lovin’ He is. She was praisin’ of how after feeding the hungry he tended to business concerning 'the evil people" and righteously at that. After all this confessing’ her secretes and heart songs to 'Lizabeth she rested awhile. It took about three months to get back on her feet, then she headed on home. Her thoughts keeping her company, "A mother of a King... a mother...!" So, now we can‘t forget Joseph in all this, and well, that’s another story even though it‘s part of this story. I understand, that when he found out about all of this, Joseph did a lot of hard thinkin' mightily even in his dreams. He had already decided that to keep from makin' things worse he would just break up with Mary on the qt., him being a good man and all. While Joseph was doin' all this stewing about things, God sent an angel, just for him. He was told that the babe Mary was gonna' have was from the Holy Spirit, and He was gonna’ save people from their sins, now you just can’t argue with things like that. Joseph didn’t. The angel said “You go on and marry her and name that baby Jesus!” Joseph did. Soon after they took a hard and troublesome trip to Bethlehem 'cause they had to pay some taxes. They found a place to sleep there with some gentle animals and sweet hay. So, deep on the very first silent, quite night there in the little city of Bethlehem our Salvation was birthed! All these things the angel had been telling 'bout came true, Mary as a virgin girl (I'll tell about that later) had a baby boy, she named Him Jesus and the angel said that he would be called “ Immanuel”, and that means God came, and He is gonna’ be with us...always". So now this true Christmas story about the birth of our Savior doesn’t have an ending 'cause it goes on forever, and if you can understand forever then you know that forever can last for an eternity, and the Merry celebratin’ will go on ... And SO... now we behold the lamb! 68


Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Lives to God’s Questions by Heather King When God calls you to make an impact, feelings of fear, doubt, and insufficiency seem to automatically show up. As a matter of fact, they have been making appearances since the beginning of time in the lives of people like Adam and Eve, Elijah, Peter, and many others. And during those times: God asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” as a checkpoint for their relationship with Him. God asked Elijah, “What are you doing here?” to bring him out from the places of depression and frustration. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” to restore their relationship. In Ask Me Anything, Lord, Heather C. King reminds you that God can use questions in Scripture to reveal the true motives and intents of your heart, challenge your thinking, and help you overcome. Exploring some of the encounters God had with people throughout the Bible and sharing her own experiences, King encourages you to draw closer to God, receive the fullness of His blessings, and boldly move forward. This soul-searching book includes personal reflection questions, group discussion topics, Scripture memory verses, suggestions for life application, and prompts for journaling—a perfect resource for women’s small group study. Here are some editorial reviews of the book: “The words on the pages of this book demonstrate the living, dynamic nature of the Word of God as His voice dives to the depths of our souls in a frequency that each one of us can perceive in our spirits, because we are created in His likeness and are in tune with the Spirit of God. Heather C. King has beautifully captured the joy of hearing and answering God’s questions to us, His people, and prepared our hearts to answer!” "Ask Me Anything, Lord is truly a God-focused and inspiring read. I wholeheartedly recommend this marvelous book." "Heather King will take you on an amazing journey in Ask Me Anything, Lord--one that will leave you fully aware of God’s grace, confident in His sovereignty, and humbly responsive to what He desires to do in and through you! Embrace the search for a deeper relationship with God through the questions in this book and you will be forever changed!"

Visit Heather King at her blog, Room to Breathe, and her book Ask Me Anything, Lord is now available from Ruby’s Reading Corner.

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A Song for the Close of Day by Connie Arnold Sing a song at the close of the day before the fading of light; to soothe the soul in a peaceful way and prepare for a restful night. After a day of toil and care, as all activities cease; sing a simple, quiet prayer, a song of hope and peace. Sing of the longing that you feel for an end to stress and strife, and let a calmness across you steal as you sing of the good things in life. Music has a certain power to cause special feelings to start, like the scent and beauty of a flower, making joy pulse and flow from the heart. A sweet song helps nerves to be stilled as from the day’s cares you retreat. Then the night with music will be filled, and your dreams will be lovely and sweet.

Visit Connie at her blog, Inspirational Poetry of Connie Arnold, to read more of her beautiful and inspiring poems.

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Lead When There’s a Need by Michelle S. Lazurek My husband and I suffer from leadership dementia. Every time we accept a new pastoral position, we temporarily forget about the messiness associated with church leadership. Our newest pastoral position was no exception. We thought we would observe ministry leaders holding hands and singing kumbaya. Instead, the backbiting between them rivaled a cage match at the Ultimate Fighting championship. As the weeks progressed, church members bombarded us with complaints and the stacks of paperwork and weekly meetings demanded our time. As our frustration levels kicked into high gear, so did our leadership dementia. We had forgotten to lead with the ultimate goal of discipleship in mind. Instead of equipping ourselves with a Bible in our hands, we led with a water hose, poised to snuff out the daily managerial fires. Sure, we probably could have done it all. But should we? As a leader, it is not easy to meet everyone’s needs within the church. In fact, it can be downright overwhelming when facing all the demands for my time. Sometimes my limitations require me to do the work, while other times they require me to empower someone else to do the work. As a leader, I need to discern what programs need my specific attention, and which ones would be better led by someone else. Acts 6:1-4 (NIV) says, “In those days, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Did the disciples think they were above the menial task of waiting on tables? Did they think the caring of widows was unimportant? Quite the contrary! The disciples realized there were more needs than they could handle. The twelve had to decide which would demand their specific attention and which would be better suited for the other disciples. They clearly understood which tasks were owned by their office, and empowered others to take responsibility in ministry for the tasks which fell outside of that scope. Here are three observations of how the disciples exemplified effective leadership: 71


The disciples saw a need and strived to fill it - The disciples realized that the caring for the poor was one of Jesus’ priorities. They “gathered the disciples together” in an effort to meet the needs of the widows who were not receiving food. The disciples invested in others – They knew as the Word of God spread, the more needs they would have to fill. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together…” They took time to make more disciples so that they could do the work God was calling them to. The disciples empowered others - “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them…” Instead of choosing the people themselves, the twelve disciples allowed the other disciples to do the choosing, inviting broader participation in and ownership of the ministry. As a disciple, are there needs around you that you can fill? Or are there others who need to be empowered to do the work?

Michelle S. Lazurek has been a pastor's wife for over twelve years. Whether it is through writing counseling material, organizing ladies retreats or mentoring women in her church, Michelle considers each day an opportunity to find her place in God's story. In 2007, Michelle and her husband Joe planted Praxis Church. Michelle holds a Master's degree in Counseling and Human Relations from Liberty University. She has two beautiful children: Caleb and Leah. Michelle provides tips for busy writers on her blog The Writers’ Tapestry: Where Writing and Life Intertwine (www.michellelazurek.com ).

Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: Discover Your Character in God’s Love Story by Michelle S. Lazurek Becoming the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved: Discover Your Character in God’s Love Story by Michelle S. Lazurek (Winepress Publishing, October, 2011) invites readers to engage with the story God is writing for their lives and discover their role as a character in that story. The book also asks the reader “What’s Your Story?” and provides thought provoking questions at the end of each chapter to allow readers to interact with the material. The book is available on her website www.michellelazurek.com , www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com . You can follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/mslazurek or Twitter. 72


Ordinary? by Lanette Kissel The arrival of the Messiah was expected and anticipated by the people. But the manner in which Jesus came to this earth was far from what was expected. Perhaps the people were expecting a triumphant royal procession where the Messiah was clothed in royal robes, holding a golden scepter, surrounded by his royal entourage of servants. Though one of Christ’s many great names is King of Kings, that title did not fit His purpose in coming to the earth. Another name, Son of Man, better describes His reason for taking on human form and walking among us. Jesus did not come as a King to be served by us, but to be our servant instead. His concern was not for His own needs, but for the needs of His beloved children on earth. Christ could hardly have come to us in a more humble way than to be born in a stable surrounded by farm animals, wrapped in a pauper’s garment, with a feeding trough for His bed. Many of the people of His day scoffed at the Messiah’s humble beginnings. Because of that, many found it difficult to believe in Him and accept His true identity as the Son of God. They didn’t want to accept such an ordinary entrance into the world. The conditions surrounding Christ’s death were as humble as those of His birth, even more so. He was ridiculed during a mockery of a trial. He was stripped of his clothing, brutally beaten, scourged and humiliated, and treated worse than most of the criminals of His day. He met His death on the cross surrounded by two convicted criminals who deserved the terrible punishment they received. Their own actions had placed them on that hill in Golgotha. Yet Jesus had done nothing wrong. On the contrary, He had done everything right. He had fulfilled His Father’s expectations and then some. He had left a home in Heaven to bring the good news about His Father to mankind on earth. He had come to teach us, to heal us, to love us, and above all to die for us and take upon Himself the burden of our sin. Had He received what He deserved upon His death, His lifeless body would have been clothed in the finest royal robes. And a royal procession would have taken place through the streets of the city. The people would have bowed humbly before the funeral pyre that carried His body, and the greatest mourning wail ever heard would have risen from the crowd of spectators. Yet our Lord received the opposite of what He deserved. His desecrated body had to be laid in a borrowed tomb. He entered our world as a pauper, and He left it the same way. And the One once known for being the most humble among us, has now become the most revered and beloved Figure in human history. His was a story of humble beginnings and endings. But the beauty of His story is that His ending wasn’t an ending at all, but only the beginning. He now reigns over heaven and earth, and His kingdom will have no end. Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, King of Kings…and the list goes on. Our Lord is known by many majestic names and titles; and He is deserving of every one. I think we would all have to agree that the baby born in a manger that first Christmas night was anything but… 73


Ordinary? He was born in an ordinary stable, and laid in a manger lowly. Who would ever have suspected He was actually Someone holy? He did not wear a kingly crown and was clothed in pauper’s garment. Such a plain and ordinary setting for a Gift that was Heaven sent. People gazed upon His young mother, her lovely face reflecting her joy. She knew there was nothing ordinary about her tiny newborn boy.

The young mother knew the true origin of the Babe entrusted to her care. Jesus would never really belong to her. He was a gift for mankind to share. He came to us as an ordinary man born of the most humble birth. Who would ever have imagined He came to serve and save the earth?

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The Happy Housewife by Elizabeth Baker Chapter Twelve Love, Love, Love What is love, anyway? When a young girl giggles and breaks into goose bumps because the little boy across the room smiles at her, we grin and say, “It’s puppy love.” For some, sex, no matter how perverted or unholy is, is synonymous with love. The emotion a mother may feel at the sight of her new baby is called love.

Love is not emotion. When love is present in the heart, there may well be an emotional response, but the emotion itself is not love. Tree branches dance and sway in response to air in motion, but air is present even when the branches are still.

The deep completeness that weaves its way through a solid marriage is called love. There is love of country; love of sports; love of money. And to make matters more complicated, God is referred to as pure love (I John 4:16). The word love is applied to so many different feelings and things and situations that the picture becomes blotched and muddy. Before I go farther in discussing the subject, I need to explain what I mean by “love” and the best way I know to do that is to clarify what love is not. Love is not emotion. When love is present in the heart, there may well be an emotional response, but the emotion itself is not love. Tree branches dance and sway in response to air in motion, but air is present even when the branches are still. Emotions are often a response to the presence of love, but love is never dependent on an emotion for existence. And emotions can run full throttle where no love exists. The Bible gives the qualifications for real love (I Corinthians 13:4-8). Among the many things listed is that love suffers long, endures all things, and never fails. Emotions could never be so consistent! Those who have love inside will freely show pity and kindness. However, we can easily feel pity without really loving.

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Emotion is slippery and changing. It is something over which we have little control, but love is a matter of the willing heart. Love is not pity. About two years ago that truth was demonstrated to me with a sharpness I will never forget. We were living in another town at the time. A shortcut we often used led us through a section of the poorest housing I have ever seen. The several blocks of scattered, unpainted shanties shivered in the winter winds and stank in the summer heat. It always stirred my heart and at times I had to fight back tears when I saw little children without adequate clothing sitting in the dirt yards playing with broken toys. One house was particularly poor. It was so full of holes it seemed hardly able to support the weight of its own roof and the entire house was no larger than my living room. I figured at least six children lived in that hovel, two of whom were albino Negroes. Such hopelessness grieved me. But what could I do? Could I take home all the underprivileged in our town? Even if I could, and if I had enough money to provide for physical needs, could I erase their past? Could I reach into their minds and pull out all the bitter memories and evil they had learned? Then, one day something happened. I saw the smoke from the highway; I heard the fire engines screaming through the streets; and the next time I had occasion to take the shortcut there was one less shanty to pass.

Such hopelessness grieved me. But what could I do? Could I take home all the underprivileged in our town? Even if I could, and if I had enough money to provide for physical needs, could I erase their past? Could I reach into their minds and pull out all the bitter memories and evil they had learned?

Only a charred heap of rubble remained, and a set of bed springs rusting in the yard, I felt sick for the news said that the two youngest children had burned to death in that filthy hole which was the only home they had ever known. A few days later I was finishing supper dishes when the doorbell rang. A woman I had never seen before opened the screen door and, without waiting for an invitation, came in and seated herself on my couch.

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“It was fine to feel pity from a distance when I knew there was nothing I could do to help, but this was something else! My pity could make me cry, but it was not love, for when ignorance came close enough to touch, close enough to help, I turned away.”

She looked as though she had had not had a bath in weeks. Her dress was torn and wrinkled. Her dark, long hair was matted and her odor was overpowering. I was shocked when she introduced herself as my neighbor. I could not believe it. We didn’t live in a fancy area of town, but I couldn’t think of a single house that might have produced this “neighbor.” It took some explaining before I realized there was another house on our street hidden between two others and back behind some trees. For the next two hours she spilled her troubles over me. I heard about everything from her arguments with the cab company and her problems with her bills to her worries over the sexual development of her children and the crumbling wallpaper in her living room. How relieved I was when Bill called and asked me to pick him up from work! My neighbor visited me several times during the following weeks, and each visit left me more irritated and repulsed. She barged into my quiet life and brought poverty and ignorance into my living room. It was fine to feel pity from a distance when I knew there was nothing I could do to help, but this was something else! My pity could make me cry, but it was not love, for when ignorance came close enough to touch, close enough to help, I turned away.

Love Goes Full Circle Our God is full of pity (Psalm 103:13), but His pity is an outgrowth of His real love. Pity feels sorrow and shakes it’s head. Love moves forward and lends a hand. [PHOTO CREDIT]

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God saw our hopeless condition; God felt pity; God moved to help us—that is the full circle of love. Love takes up where pity falls short. Love keeps on when emotions grow cold. Love never gives up hope.

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Love is patient. Love is kind. Love never seeks its own, but yields to the needs of others. Love is never selfish. Love is never rude or proud. Love endures (see I Corinthians 13:4-8). Many people go through life, they marry, have children, grow old and die; yet never once do they taste real love. Love is what sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world. It is his birthmark. Jesus commanded us to love each other in the same manner that He loves us (John 15:12). The kind of love that should shine forth from a Christian follows the patterns of love that Jesus gave. Do we express this to those whose lives we touch each day? Are we patient? Are we kind? When others see our lives do they notice a marked absence of selfishness and pride?

Love Liberates God’s love grants freedom to the person receiving it. Did you ever wonder why God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden? He obviously did not want Adam and his wife to eat its fruit. He also knew that, as they disobeyed, the world would be given into the hands of Satan. Pain, sickness, sin, and all other evils would follow.

“Many people go through life, they marry, have children, grow old and die; yet never once do they taste real love. Love is what sets a Christian apart from the rest of the world. It is his birthmark.”

Why did God do it? That tree was not only the door to sorrow for mankind but it was also a door of pain for the Lord Himself. The only way He could rescue mankind would be to take on human form (Colossians 2:8-10), live a perfect life (Hebrews 4:14-15), die in agony upon a cross while taking all the sin of the world upon Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:24), break the chains of death by walking out of the grave on the third day (Matthew 28:5-7) and once more return to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). The tree, however, gave mankind a very precious gift, a gift that God fervently wanted us to have. The tree was God’s seal on man’s freedom. We may sin if we choose to do so. 78


“When we assume that because someone is different from us, they are automatically wrong or when we force our methods and opinions on others we are acting out of selfish pride. When we call this action “love” we profane the very word.”

God also justifies us upon our free choice to receive Christ. After we become His children, we still walk in the perfect freedom of His love. God will influence us toward the right. He disciplines our rebellion. He will plead and instruct. But our will is precious and He lets us exercise it freely. Perfect love thrives in perfect freedom. Obedience can sometimes be forced from another with threats of punishment. Praise can be extracted from lying lips with the promise of reward. But love, real love, cannot be forced from another and it cannot be bribed with promise of reward. Love can only exist when it is freely given. The love we express toward others needs to have the same quality of freedom that God’s love has. What passes for human “love” is often nothing more than selfishness dressed up in a respectable name. If what we call love smothers another or forces control over him; if it is proud and refuses to let another individual be a person with thoughts and preferences of his own, then it is not real love at all. My husband and I have different views on politics, pollution, and pets (among other things!). My daughter and I have completely different tastes in clothes. She calls something adorable and fashion right. I say it’s sloppy and uncomfortable. I have never met a friend who cooked exactly as I do. I have never met a preacher with whom I agree on every detail. God made each snowflake different, and He made each person different, too.

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If you have ever lived in someone else’s home for an extended period of time or used another woman’s kitchen for a week, you quickly realize just how different we all are from one another. When we assume that because someone is different from us, they are automatically wrong or when we force our methods and opinions on others we are acting out of selfish pride. When we call this action “love” we profane the very word.

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If what another person does is NOT directly in violation of God’s Word, it is none of our business to correct him. If what he does IS a direct violation of God’s Word, we should warn him, be willing to aid him, and pray for him. Even then, however if need be, we must allow that person the freedom to fail.

Love Has No Price Tag God not only allows man freedom, but the love God offers is also absolutely free. How tragic when people spend their lives trying to earn God’s love instead of being willing to accept the love He has already made available. The love we Christians express toward others should have this same quality of being freely given.

The love we have for one another should say, “I love you for who you are, not for what you can offer me or for what you are able to achieve. I welcome you when you excel and I welcome you when you fail.” That is real love.

How many parents have led their children to believe that they must earn their love by excelling in sports or making straight A’s? How many children fear that if they can’t do these things Mama and Daddy won’t love them anymore? How many wives have been made to feel that they must earn the love of their husbands by remaining age 25 forever? How many husbands believe that if they can’t provide material wealth, they are less than other men and will not earn their wives’ love? The love we have for one another should say, “I love you for who you are, not for what you can offer me or for what you are able to achieve. I welcome you when you excel and I welcome you when you fail.” That is real love. Another mark of real love is the fact that it is active. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) God loved and so God gave. He didn’t wait for mankind to clean up. God gave while we were yet sinners and totally unlovable. If we have in us this same quality of love that Jesus expressed we will actively pursue the comfort and happiness and spiritual well-being of others, even when they don’t deserve it.

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Of course, that kind of love is not natural to children of Adam. It is only possible through the new birth as the love of God—perfect love—is shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We can’t work up this kind of love. We can’t make ourselves feel it or do it. But, by His grace, we can use the love He pours into us and let the river flow to others unobstructed. 80


Love Lasts “Pity may prove insignificant. Emotion may race off in the wrong direction or grow cold. But if we are willing to love, if we will voluntarily let God place in our hearts the love we don’t have, God’s power can change us at the center of our being and put real love inside us. Love we can feel. Love we can use. Love that proves His existence and His power.

One more quality of real love—God’s love—is its endurance. God’s love was present when He created man, and it was still there after man sinned and turned away. God’s love was there when He gave Moses the law, and it was still there when the law was fulfilled at Calvary. Nearly 2,000 years have come and gone since Christ Jesus walked this earth, but His love is still active today and is demonstrated by the acts and tender hearts of His people. But what if we don’t have this kind of love? What if a wife’s love for her husband grows cold and just watching him eat breakfast irritates her, not to mention the thought of him touching her? Society expects a woman to automatically love her children, but society doesn’t have to clean up after them or listen to their constant racket. What if love doesn’t come automatically? We know what we should do, and inside ourselves we may want desperately to love others but still be unable to reach our goal. Paul faced a similar problem to this. “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. [. . .] Now, if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me. [. . .] For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But, I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity . . . . Oh wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15-24 abridged). Then, Paul goes on to answer his own question. The situation is not hopeless and it does not depend on useless self-effort. He says, “I Thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v. 25) Pity may prove insignificant. Emotion may race off in the wrong direction or grow cold. But if we are willing to love, if we will voluntarily let God place in our hearts the love we don’t have, God’s power can change us at the center of our being and put real love inside us. Love we can feel. Love we can use. Love that proves His existence and His power. 81


Drawing on God’s Love There are some things that can prevent us from being filled with this supernatural love. One is failure to honestly ask. Another is failure to let go of the things that already fill our hearts. There is no way to fill a jug that is already full. First you must empty the jug and then it will be in a position to receive. If we hang on to resentment, chew on self-pity, or dwell on the hurts and failures of the past, we will never be in a position to be filled with His love. Vessels filled with stagnant water have no room to receive the cool clear rain from above. Some years ago a friend of mine had an experience in drawing on God’s love, and she has agreed to let me use her story if I blur her identity. I have chosen the name of Donna for her. Donna grew up in a home where expressions of love were rare. Her earliest memories are parental quarreling, fear, and shame. Like so many children raised under these hardships, she married young and gave birth to her firstborn within a year. Having never seen the natural, easy affection and consideration that real love produces, she found it impossible to express these things to her husband. The years passed and the marriage went from weak to critical. A vicious circle was established between her and her husband, with each determined to give hurt for hurt. The child was left alone, neglected. Donna tried everything to relieve the aching emptiness inside her. She joined a wild crowd and learned to curse and drink but the loneliness followed. She tried psychiatric counseling but nothing helped. Finally, in desperation Donna turned back to the God of her youth, not so much because she believed that He could help but because she had exhausted all other hopes. Praise God! He can help. He does help! Donna had to learn to walk with the Lord one step at a time.

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“First you must empty the jug and then it will be in a position to receive. If we hang on to resentment, chew on self-pity, or dwell on the hurts and failures of the past, we will never be in a position to be filled with His love. Vessels filled with stagnant water have no room to receive the cool clear rain from above.”

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“The story could well have ended in tragedy, a child’s mind and life being distorted as she hungered for the love of a mother but found only rejection. But God doesn’t end stories like that. Other endings are available. Donna only had to turn to Him, get on her knees and ask Him for something she did not have.”

One of the first steps Donna had to take with the Master concerned her total inability to love her own child. She knew God expected her to love her daughter, and she wanted to love, but the little girl had been born in the sin-infested years of the past of which she was so ashamed. Her daughter became a symbol of all the hurt and anger that she wanted to forget. Every time she reached out to hold the child, a ghost of the past would step between them. She felt a need to push the child out of her life and mind. She never spoke to her unless it was necessary, and had to force herself to even be polite to the child. She became constantly critical and her discipline was harsh and often excessive. Donna could not love. The story could well have ended in tragedy, a child’s mind and life being distorted as she hungered for the love of a mother but found only rejection. But God doesn’t end stories like that. Other endings are available. Donna only had to turn to Him, get on her knees and ask Him for something she did not have. It is often hard for us to admit the cold facts before God. It is difficult to say, “I have failed.” It was painful for Donna to go before God and say, “Lord, You have given me a lovely little girl to raise but I don’t want her. I can’t love her. Please, Lord, change me as only You have the power to do. Place Your own love inside my cold heart that I might care for this child as You want me to.” Donna says that she had learned from Bible study and past experience that the only prayers that are effective are those mingled with faith (Hebrews 11:6). So before she left her knees, she made it a point to thank God for having already granted her request even though she couldn’t feel it or prove it in any way. The change was almost immediate. Honest love came pouring into the heart from a source beyond her own power. Love she could feel and rely on. At times during the coming days the old ghosts of resentment would rise. Memories of the past would make a feeling of rejection swell inside her. 83


When this happened, Donna would go to the child and embrace her or play with her for a moment. We are instructed from the Word to yield our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13). When Donna used her arms to embrace her child, she carried out this instruction to perfection. Today Donnas’ child is a young woman. She and her mother share a close relationship. There is no sign of personality scars on either, despite the early years of rejection and sorrow. Truly, as the Scripture says, “Love never fails.”

Epilogue Today is April 5, 1974. Three days ago I turned 30. When I called my friend Linda and asked if she and her husband would like to come to dinner and help me celebrate, she quipped, “You’re going to celebrate?” I know turning 30 is supposed to be met with tears rather than parties, and I must admit that I have made a few wisecracks about how I will manage life now that I am officially “over the hill.” But the truth of the matter is that being 30 these past few days hasn’t been that much different from the rest of my life. I guess the grief is not the immediate future but knowing that many things will likely be downhill from here! There is an advertisement on television in which a young man with a sexy smile and deep voice gazes into the camera and croons, “Baby, you’re not getting older; you’re getting better.” While I would be cautious about calling that young man a liar, I do wonder why, if she is indeed better, she needs the hair color product he is peddling. One thing I know for sure: so far as physical beauty goes, this old lady ain’t getting’ better. When I was 20, I was something short of being beautiful. Now, at 30, I am much farther short of physical perfection, and the gap keeps widening all the time! Last fall I went to pick up my daughter from a junior high football game. As we passed under the harsh lights of a railroad crossing, she gasped, “O-oo, Mama, what are those things at the corners of your eyes?”

“One thing I know for sure: so far as physical beauty goes, this old lady ain’t getting’ better. When I was 20, I was something short of being beautiful. Now, at 30, I am much farther short of physical perfection, and the gap keeps widening all the time!”

“They are called crow’s-feet, dear.” I replied, “Wrinkles, to be exact.” “O-oo,” she moaned while investigating my face at closer range. “Ooo, just like Grandma!” 84


“As I look back, I can truthfully say that with Jesus by my side, even the bad times were good. They were good because Jesus stood firmly by His promises and never allowed a trial too hard for me to bear. For every trouble He proved that He Himself is all the answer I need, and every time He had to discipline me, I was glad, in the end, that He did.”

She was right. Just like Grandma. And, should the Lord delay His coming, I’ll look more grandmotherly as time passes. I would be lying if I said this thought doesn’t cause even a ripple on my sea of vanity. I have enjoyed being young. But this one thing I know, for as many years as I have placed Jesus first in my life and actively sought a daily personal relationship with Him, the years have been getting better as they roll, and the fact that my hair is not the pretty honey-tan it once was or my skin not quite so smooth as before has nothing to do with it. There is more peace, more joy, more understanding and more love in me this year than there was last year, and there is a promise that the next years will prove to be better than what I know now. During the past few years I have experienced sickness, bitter disappointments, financial woes, and an uncertain future, times when I could not understand why the Lord allowed pain to come my way, and times when I made my own troubles by refusing His counsel and insisting on my own way. As I look back, I can truthfully say that with Jesus by my side, even the bad times were good. They were good because Jesus stood firmly by His promises and never allowed a trial too hard for me to bear. For every trouble He proved that He Himself is all the answer I need, and every time He had to discipline me, I was glad, in the end, that He did. Because of what Jesus has done for me in the past, I face the future with confidence. I don’t know what this drunk and troubled world will do next. I don’t know if the economy will crumble or stand. I don’t know if disease will catch me in its grip. I don’t know when death will touch the ones I love. But I do know my Jesus, and He promises that my strength shall be as my day. I’ll live one day at a time and trust Him. One of the basic facts of this book has been that its author is no one special. I am a housewife with little education and no formal Bible training. I am very common, but I serve a most uncommon God. And the great thing about that statement is that, if you want Him, He will be your God and Savior too. If Jesus can use my small faith, He can surely use yours. If He can teach my thick head, He can teach you too. If He can use my talent, He can use yours. 85


There is no limit to His forgiveness, no bounds to His great love, nothing He can’t conquer, no person He can’t save. If this book has impressed on you the ability of the Lord to touch the everyday things, it has achieved its purpose. If it has caused you to see more clearly the goals God has for you, it has been well worth the tedious hours I’ve devoted to it. If it has stirred in your heart a desire to know more of Him, then I am more than repaid for the times I’ve prayed for you over these typewriter keys. The children came in from school a few minutes ago and the house is filled with the racket of youth on the go. There is a ball game in the hall, an argument in the kitchen, and my oldest child us upset because her horse got cut on the barbed wire fence….things are about normal in the Baker house.

“If this book has impressed on you the ability of the Lord to touch the everyday things, it has achieved its purpose. If it has caused you to see more clearly the goals God has for you, it has been well worth the tedious hours I’ve devoted to it.”

The script has been written as I would write a letter to a friend, and I hope you have received it with the same attitude (even if you did have to pay for a copy of it!). In a few minutes I will put my typewriter back in the closet and get busy in the garden. I put beet seeds in to soak last night and if I don’t get them in the ground they will sour. I wish I could tell you the day is sunny and warm and I can’t wait to get outside. The truth is that it is very cool, and there is a strong north wind. I would much rather brew myself a cup of tea and sit by the heater than to get out there in that windy patch and fight the blowing sand, but if I expect to harvest I must be willing to plant. I wish you God’s best and leave you with this thought: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

The Happy Housewife by Elizabeth Baker Elizabeth's best-seller from 1979 is brought back to life for a new generation. The Happy Housewife is humorous, honest, compelling and completely Bible based. An ageless primer on the joys and traumas of dealing with kids, husbands, and the never-ending cycle of housework. Elizabeth tackles problems that are modern in every respect while her home-spun style makes a reader feel as though she is having coffee with a trusted friend. The Happy Housewife by Elizabeth Baker is now available from Ruby’s Reading Corner.

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Five Whispers Every Mom Should Hear by Theresa Ceniccola

Have you ever sat down with a friend over coffee and poured your heart out about something that’s been troubling you? And somehow (let’s call it divine inspiration), she comes up with the perfect statement to put you at ease. She finds those magic words you need to hear to make you feel better and remind you that everything will be ok. Wouldn’t you like to bottle that encouragement and tap into it anytime you need it? Of course, I know you’d rather have your BFF deliver it in person, but we don’t always have time for a long chat with a friend. So why not try the DIY method of encouragement? I call it Whisper Therapy. It’s not a replacement for your loving friendship, but it will help you stay positive and focused on what matters most. These whispers are simple affirmations…reminders to yourself of what you ALREADY know…of what your best friend would tell you if she were sitting right next to you. Here’s how it works. Create three to five whispers that encourage you. These are the messages that you know you need to hear whenever you are frustrated, defeated, overwhelmed or exhausted. These are the words you hear the Holy Spirit whisper in your heart when you really spend the time to listen. These are the words that bring you peace and confidence and clarity – in business and at home. Your whispers will be unique to your life and your business and the challenges you are experiencing in this season. But take a look at some of my personal whispers for inspiration: 1. My Productivity Whisper: “God has a plan for my business. I have a plan for my day.” This is what I tell myself when I need a reminder to lean on him for the bigger picture, but stay on task in my daily actions. Whenever I find myself lost between surrender and control, I remind myself that my business belongs to God and I need to follow the path he sets before me. But I can’t just leave it all up to him – I need to stay focused on executing the plan in baby steps each and every day. That I need to have a plan for my day so that I can stay on track and follow his plan for my life. 2. My Overwhelm Whisper: “It’s ok to say no.” I must repeat this phrase a hundred times a day. I’m getting better at saying no to projects at work that distract me from my goal and from “new opportunities” that send me in another direction. I’m also fairly adept at saying no to social activities that take me away from my family. But I have a difficult time saying no to certain activities with my children that I feel guilty about missing.

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I use this mantra anytime I need a reminder that I can’t possibly do it all. I am not designed to BE everything and DO everything for everyone. It’s ok to say no because I need to open the space in my life to answer God’s call. 3. My Gratitude Whisper: “I am grateful for...” There’s nothing like a dose of gratitude to help you put life and business into perspective. Whenever I am feeling disappointed, rejected or fearful, I think of one thing in my life that I’m grateful for. Sometimes I use my gratitude journal to jot it down and other times I simply say a quick prayer of thanksgiving. Use whatever method works for you – just know that expressing your gratitude daily will help you stay clear and focused on your blessings and your purpose. Make it a habit to visit this whisper every day and your own struggles will slowly begin to seem less overwhelming. 4. My Support Whisper: “I don’t have to do this alone.” If you’re like me, there are days when you feel you bear the weight of the world on your shoulders. You know in your mind that God doesn’t intend for you to carry the burden alone, but there’s something in your heart that just won’t let others in to help lighten the load. This is the whisper you need to hear when your cross becomes too heavy. This is the whisper that will set you free and surround you with support. Maybe you need more help at home with childcare or housekeeping…or reliable assistance in the office with bookkeeping or customer service…or maybe you just need a supportive sister to reach out to…someone who will listen and love you and lift you up. No matter what your struggles are today, you don’t have to do this alone. Remember that. Repeat it often. 5. My Confidence Whisper: “I am God’s masterpiece and I already have everything I need to succeed.” No matter where you are on your business path or your motherhood journey, there are bound to be moments of doubt. Even the most experienced entrepreneur or mother lacks confidence in certain situations. Fortunately, as Christians, we can lean on our faith when the doubt and fear creep in. We can remind ourselves that God counts every hair on our heads and he has plans for us to prosper. We can stand tall in knowing that God doesn’t call the equipped – he equips the called. And we can come back to these truths every time we start searching elsewhere for the answers. Every time we feel less-than qualified. Every time we lose sight of how beautiful and brilliant we are – if only we allow our light to shine from within. So what are the whispers you need to hear for peace and productivity? Share them with us here! 88


brightly fallen by Keith Wallis

It’s brightly fallen this random rich clothing on the welcoming ground: the bright glister of gold echoing sharp sunlight of shortening days. More regal than faux red carpet, a crown beneath my feet: the pre-Advent promise of a King in the waiting wings of the closing of the year. A short-lived hosanna of Autumn, before greying to shroud in the clench of unwelcome Winter and the uninvited bite of reality when the King like these trees is stripped.

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poems from the pit” by Keith Wallis English poet Keith Wallis is a lifelong resident of Houghton Regis and takes a keen interest in the development of the Chalk Quarry wild life reserve. He's known the area from its days as a major local industry through to its new life as an SSSI wild life reserve. His new book of

‘poems from the pit’ revolves around photographs he’s taken in the quarry over the last eighteen months. It is, however, not what you would expect. It is not nostalgic for a lost past, though a few poems refer to the former days of the quarry, but rather a celebration of now. The words and photographs offer a view that there is beauty even in the ‘detritus’ left behind by industry and the litter discarded by the thoughtless. The poems are all inspired by his photographs but may be a little oblique – often showing a train of thought rather than a description. Sample can be viewed at: http://www.blurb.com/user/store/wordsculptor where you’ll also find his other books.

The Early Years by Keith Wallis The poems in this omnibus were written quite a while back. Whilst fairly contemporary at the time, some may well have been written differently today. However, some still remain firm favourites in the author's portfolio. “Coaled” (in Marketplace of Masks) found a new lease on life as a short story (“Clive's Journey”) published by Bewildering Stories (issue 333). Read more: http://wordsculptures-keith.blogspot.com/p/earlyyears.html#ixzz2UywCNQDr

By Still Waters by Keith Wallis A celebration of life; poems and associated photographs of faith and experience. The light touch of a poet rejoicing in creation. Read more: http://wordsculptures-keith.blogspot.com/p/by-stillwaters.html 90


Letting Go of the Past, Looking to the Future by Jennifer Workman “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead.” (Philippians 3:13, NKJV) Life is a series of “ups and downs,” successes and failures, rewards and demotions. But, whatever state we pass through, or we may find ourselves in, we can take solace in knowing that God is in control. God isn’t just in control when everything is going “well” and we get what we desire in life, but God is also sovereign whether events in our life are “good or bad” for He promises “never to leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5, NKJV). That fact is difficult for many people to internalize in times of extreme difficulty, especially when they have experienced hardship for an extended period of time. For example, it is easy for a runner to endure a race if it is a sprint and he/she starts and finishes quickly. But, it is more challenging for the runner if they have to run a great distance. Why? Because distance running takes training of the mind and body to be able to persevere and win. Similarly, if we are going to win in life, we must adopt the same mentality as the distance runner. Not only should we strive to press ahead in our race of life, but also the way in which we do this is by letting go of our past failures, mistakes and disappointments and move forward. Some people are “stuck” in life because they choose to keep dwelling on the past. Whether it is a broken relationship, job loss, bad financial decision or likewise, they just won’t let go! They blame everyone and everything else for their problems and don’t effectively deal with their challenging issues through prayer, confession and self-analysis. As a result, they are left miserable, defeated and unhappy. This isn’t God’s desire for our lives. He wants us to be free, “for who the son sets free is free indeed.” (John 8:36, NKJV) We can wholeheartedly make the choice to be free or to stay in bondage. “I choose to be free!” Freedom feels so much better than bondage!

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The way we can free ourselves from the snare and entrapment of bondage and sin is to ask for forgiveness from God, choose to forgive ourselves for the past mistakes and poor decisions that we have made and also choose to forgive others for their wrong and mistreatment towards us. We also free ourselves when we choose to view life positively and not negatively. We absolutely free ourselves through the powerful working of the Holy Spirit that dwells within our hearts and Who is able to cleanse us inside and outside, spiritually transform our lives and thus give us joy, peace and happiness in Jesus. So, why don’t you make up your mind to “let go and let God?” I know that this sounds like a cliché, but it is true. It doesn’t matter what you have done or where you are in life right now, because God is able to take all of your problems and mistakes and turn it around for your good! Yes, for “your good,” and most importantly, so that God will be glorified! If there is ever any contemplation in your mind regarding this fact, I urge you to take a look at the Word of God. Because in it, you will find innumerable examples of people in the Bible who once lived, made mistakes and regardless of their past, were able to move forward into the destiny God orchestrated for their lives. One excellent example of this truth is King David. David made the terrible mistake of committing adultery with Bathsheba and thereafter, having her husband killed to cover up his sin (II Samuel 11:1-27, NKJV) Even though David did something so foolish and incomprehensible, it didn’t thwart the plan of God for his life. Yes, it is to be duly noted that he didn’t bypass the consequences of his sin, but once he cried out to God for forgiveness, repented and confessed his sin, he was able to move forward and God blessed him (II Samuel 12:1-25, NKJV). And, that is what we must do to be able to move forward in our lives. Bring every sin, mistake and misstep to our Heavenly Father. God knows what is best for us and he also knows how to transform our lives. Even though there is nothing that we can do to change the past, God can use our past and through His transformative power, give us a bigger, brighter and better future (Jeremiah 29:11, NKJV). 92


Word Grid Puzzle by Beth Brubaker

Answer key on page 119

Visit Beth Brubaker at her blog, Footprints in the Mud, to read her humorous and inspirational articles on family life, parenting, and her adventures as a Christian wife and mother.

You can find daily devotionals on Kristi’s blog at www.kristiburchfiel.com 93


Divine Healing by Linda M. Crate

I remember one summer's day, while I was still attending college, I woke up to discover the pilonidal cyst I had removed some years ago had returned. This time it was more painful and easily aggravated than before. It was extremely distressing at the time because I didn't have insurance or enough money to afford that sort of surgery. I was too old to be able to be on my parent's insurance (this was before you could stay on your parent's insurance until you were twenty-six), and I was a college student who no longer had a summer job. So it was a very stressful time for me. Many times I broke into tears because I didn't know how I was going to be able to provide payment for this surgery. One morning I remember it dawned on me that I could always pray for healing. If God could heal the lepers and cause the blind to see, why wouldn't He be able to help me? I told my mother that I was praying and she said that was good, but kept talking treatment options. However, one afternoon, I noticed that the cyst that had returned was completely gone. God had healed me! I was really excited, and it was a huge burden lifted off my shoulders because finances were tight at that moment. In Jeremiah 17:14 it reads: "Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for thou art my praise." God truly had healed me in more than one way. I was going through a rough time spiritually as well, and He turned my eyes back to him. He made me realize that miracles did still happen, all I had to do was ask Him for his provision. He provides for the sparrows and the lilies, how much should He provide for His people?! I didn't do anything to deserve His healing, and yet He healed me anyway. This divine healing really helped me put things into perspective, and made me realize that all that really matters is what we do in His name and how we shine our light for others to see His light. So whatever struggle you're going through, just remember that He's got this. He can carry you through whatever ailment or situation that is dragging you down. You just have to remember to turn your eyes back to Him.

Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh, but she was raised in the rural town of Conneautville. She attended and graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English-Literature in 2009. Her poetry, articles, reviews, and short stories have appeared in several journals online and in print. Her poetry chapbook A Mermaid Crashing into Dawn was recently published by Fowlpox Press. Visit Linda online at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Linda-MCrate/129813357119547 Etsy Shop: http://www.etsy.com/people/ravenofthewolf Blog: http://theravensnevermore.blogspot.com/ 94


A Small Detail in the Christmas Story by Cindy Bailey

I wonder what it would have been like to hold the newborn baby Jesus. And, I’d like to know what Mary was thinking that first night. I wonder if she wept that this glorious birth had occurred in a dirty stable, if she needed a minute to look Him over, make sure He had all His fingers and toes and to take in His face before she handed Him over to the world He came to save. When Julie was born 25 years ago, I made Bob promise to follow the nurses to the nursery where there were already 17 other babies, so he could memorize her face to make sure we took the right one home. “Newborns all look alike!” I whispered conspiratorially. The first time we brought her to our new church in Minnesota, people just wanted to get their hands on her. I felt like a lioness with her cub; it was absolutely PRIMAL. Every hair on my neck stood up and claws seemed to protrude from my fingertips as I fought away every maternal instinct in me to take my baby and run. {PHOTO CREDIT}

One woman, the resident Expert Mom who had three young boys, reached for my new daughter like a starved monkey after a bunch of bananas and nearly DROPPED MY 2-WEEK-OLD INFANT. Julie, we were learning, had this bizarre talent of digging the tips of her teeny toes into your arm and flipping herself over. I snatched my child back from this crone as politely as I could, carefully retracting my claws. When Annie came along, we were back in Pennsylvania where everybody and her uncle wanted to see the Second Bailey Girl. And most of them had young children, which were actually, runnynosed THREATS to my new daughter’s health and welfare, not to mention their over-eager dogs, who “never bite.” Even though a quarter-century has passed, I still get goose bumps thinking about those days.

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“I wonder what it would have been like to hold the newborn baby Jesus. And, I’d like to know what Mary was thinking that first night. I wonder if she wept that this glorious birth had occurred in a dirty stable, if she needed a minute to look Him over, make sure He had all His fingers and toes and to take in His face before she handed Him over to the world He came to save.”

The acute awareness characterizing that time also applied to the moments most every mom treasures, hearing their first wail, kissing their tiny fingers and toes…. Then there was that vivid moment it dawned on me that every hour was another step in the process of letting go. All because a school bus had driven by as I rocked my baby girl. And when I think about Mary, having delivered her Son in the most awkward circumstances, as a crowd was gathering to gawk, I see that she nonetheless “treasured in her heart” those initial moments with her baby. And it’s taken me all these years to understand, a little, why Luke included this small detail in the Christmas story. I think it’s because this focused, all-consuming love a mother has for her newborn is what Jesus was referring to when He said, “Love the Lord with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” Guess I’m still working on that. [PHOTO CREDIT]

Read more of Cindy’s inspirational articles and follow her blog, Cindy’s Wind. 96


Take Time to Smell the Roses by Dorothy Kurchak

Roses seem to be either a favorite of gardeners or a bane. When I first planted roses I didn’t have much success. They usually died during the winter or just perished due to the various diseases or bugs. So I read up on growing roses. I found out how to plant, nourish and care for them. First of all in zone 5 the rose needs to be planted deep. The graft union should be 1 or 2 inches below the soil surface. This will keep the plant through the winter. Otherwise, caring for them is a matter of sufficient moisture, a “weeping hose” at the root; and spraying for bugs and diseases. I currently have 30 roses, 3 shrub (Knock Out), 6 miniatures and 21 floribunda. A visitor once asked which rose was my favorite - I love them all! The miniatures are very cute because they’re small. Some of the floribundas have such large roses and they smell so wonderful. Along the edge of the garden by the garage pad I have rocks, Elijah Blue Grass and miniatures. A couple years ago, I put red Knock Out roses at each corner of the house. I wanted something with color and size, which they have. They are a shrub rose which means they are larger than floribundas or teas. Their blossoms are not spectacular as the floribundas as they are a single or double rose but they are resistant to black spot and even the bugs don’t bother them much. I always buy quality roses such as Weeks or Jackson and Perkins. This summer I was asked to take part in the local garden walk again. It was the middle of June so most of the color was in the annuals. Some of the roses were in bloom as well as some perennials. I added a “fun” feature this year. I have an arbor in the middle yard covered with wild grape vines.

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My niece gave me a “vacuum cleaner doll;” it’s meant to be put over the vacuum and is only a torso and head. I put a sun bonnet and legs on her and put her in the arbor. It got a laugh from the visitors. The cat is Rambo, a male cat who adopted my home as his. So it was a busy summer with the garden walk, the church picnic and visits from friends. My older brother, who is also a widower, has been more company this year. I’ve been taking him to nurseries and getting him more into gardening and being outdoors. The nurseries are having their fall sales now and he has decided to plant some shrubs in front of his house. It’s a tall house and needs something to fill in all that bare space. He likes the Rose of Sharon with its large hollyhock type flowers and the large blossoms of the hydrangeas. It will be fun to help him pick out some shrubs. It seems the raccoon community has greatly enlarged this summer. They ate every gooseberry I had! The little rascals! I like to mix the gooseberries with currants and raspberries or strawberries for jam. I did harvest the currants. I guess they are too sour for the raccoons. And, the birds ate all the elderberries. I use those to make my brother a pie for his birthday. Sadly, no pie this year. It’s time to clean the gardens and divide some over-growth hostas. I’m running out of room to plant the left over hostas. I’m going to save some for the garden walk sale next summer and convince some friends they need some too. Ah friends, how we need them. I’m so thankful for friends, family and especially for the Lord Jesus, my dearest friend. May He be your friend also,

Aunt Dots

eâuç cxtÜÄá A A A A Ä|ààÄx zxÅá Éy ã|áwÉÅ? }Éç? tÇw ÜxÅxÅuÜtÇvx àÉ uÜ|z{àxÇ âÑ çÉâÜ wtç4 January 1 is New Year’s Day! Happy 2014 Everyone! January 6 is Cuddle Up Day! Grab a cup of hot cocoa and your favorite book and have a cuddle! January 23 is Compliment Day! Share your smile with the world and let someone know how wonderful they are!

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Building a Foundation of Faith by Theresa E. Nelson After our readings, I’d ask a simple question such as, “How was God faithful to David in this story? What can we learn from Goliath?” “That was a big fish,” Christian said when I read about Jonah being swallowed whole. “Did the fish got a tummy ache from Jonah praying inside? It was just one of the many questions that he asked as we snuggled on the couch reading Bible stories.

He first gave answers that were simple, but over time we had some great conversations and he came up with some well thought out observations.

I began reading a very simple children’s Bible with lots of bright pictures to him when he was about two years old. When we would finish one version, I would choose another version with more words and less pictures. By the time he was 8 we had read through about 5 children’s Bibles. It was amazing the things I learned from reading children’s Bibles. I met a few new characters I had never before met and was able to introduce Christian to beloved stories, like Daniel in the lion’s den and Jonah and the stomach-ache fish. As the Bible is not arranged chronologically, reading the children’s Bibles helped me finally obtain a clear timeline of the Bible and the order of events within the Bible. I also caught details I had missed in reading the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.

Since songs are easy to memorize, I would play Bible scripture set to music, such as Sing the Word, when he played at home or we were in the car. He didn’t even realize he was memorizing God’s word as he built a block bridge and sang, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Around age 9 we started reading the Bible itself. By now he knew the overall theme and story of the Bible and had a good base to help connect things together. “Mom, David is referring to that incident in the wilderness when the Children of Israel were begging for meat and God sent quail.” Not only was Christian introduced to God’s word and His great love for His people, the Bible stories sparked some great conversations and were referenced during teachable moments.

Hearing the stories every year or so helped Christian be more engaged during church. He often recognized what the pastor was talking about. He’d lean over and whisper, “This is the parable of the lost son. Remember how he comes back?”

“Remember what Jonah did when he was inside the fish and scared? I bet if we pray now that would help you not to be so scared.” Teaching our young children spiritual lessons can be daunting, but don’t let the idea scare you. Start 99 it where you would start—with the Bible--only make a children’s Bible.


My Love to You Always An Anthology of Love Stories Jennifer Wessner, Compiler Ramona Tucker, Editor Contributing author, Gloria Doty of Ruby for Women Forever love . . . . when did you fall in love? And when did you know that love would be a lasting one - celebrating life's joyous moments and walking together, hand-in-hand, through challenging times? Or are you still longing for that person to come into your life, as a side-by-side companion? Experience "my love to you always" kind of love through 42 of the sweetest, real-life love stories collected from across the globe. They're guaranteed to make you misty eyed and renew your faith in the power of enduring love. Don't miss My Love to You Always: 42 real love stories guaranteed to bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. Purchase My Love to You Always from Ruby’s Reading Corner, and for more great romances, go to www.oaktara.com

Visit Theresa Ceniccola, The Christian Mompreneur, at www.theresaceniccola.com

Be sure to visit Beth at her blog, Footprints in the Mud, for more inspirational and humorous articles www.footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com 100


In Tribute to Hindsight by Sharon L. Patterson Forgive me if I seem trite, To boldly reflect through hindsight. But I do so appreciate Each and every trait Gained from experienced years And the wise things one hears From those who have gone before, Who have loved, died, and gone to war. I want to share from my childhood times By continuing on with my simple rhymes. I was born to a time filled with ready-made answers, Amid the teeming new breed of rock n’roll dancers. The answers were given by a war-weary generation Who were fresh in their determination To restore normalcy And diplomacy. For theirs had been fragmented lives, War had separated friends, lovers, husbands and wives. But now, back home as post-war economy boomed, The new parents became consumed In Tribute to Hindsight With their newly found affluence That would so deeply influence The kind of love they chose to give, The types of lives they tried to live. They doted on us children like kings purely royal, And then prayed to God that we wouldn’t be spoiled. Having suffered through the Depression, My mother never once questioned The mounds of mashed potatoes which I indulged Until my stomach protruding bulged. All too soon we were content, Caught up in hula hoops and Superman (who was really Clark Kent). In bobby socks and felt skirts with French poodles, Movie-star formals and simply oodles Of Butch Hair Wax, And ivy-league slacks We emerged to face With no disgrace, 101


The world of “Life” and “Look”. With deepest pride we took The advice of “Readers’ Digest, Whatever it dared to suggest. We loved a little toy called “slinky”, Sat for hours to watch a guy named Lee whose first name was “Pinky”, We never missed “Howdy Doody” with Uncle Bob, or Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. Religiously, we listened for scores from The White Sox, The Yankees, and The Dodgers. We rolled up our jeans And by devious means Made sure we got one of Dad’s white shirts, And then cried till Mom gave in to buying tight skirts. It was an age when parents desired strictest obedience Not to mention total allegiance. Communication was not the goal, But simply to build and to mold; To raise and to train With the wish that we attain The best! Such was our parents’ quest. It was not at all easy for them to express The love and pride they sometimes verbally suppressed. In the sixties we would rise to lay blame, Calling our parents’ lives a hypocritical game. But fifteen years later we would repent, Becoming ourselves, “The Establishment”. The indulgence of our parents had not gone unmixed Without the frugality to fix The problems of our generation. However, sometimes, I lost admiration As we seemed to forget, Choosing instead to regret All the things we were taught As our own solutions we sought. We were busy rebelling, Growing hair, taking drugs, and seeing the killing Of our president, his brother, and the leader named King Who had given civil rights a new song to sing. 102


The unending war in Vietnam brought frustration To our confused and often distraught nation. We preached love from communes As hippies and flower children fumed About our polluted, plastic-coated establishment. They wanted a purely “natural” environment. All we accomplished seemed distressing, And looking back, times were often depressing. To think of all those drug filled minds, Though it was my world, it was the most disturbing of times. In the seventies we were in a tizzy, Changing our dress from maxi to mini. We opened the decade adjusting our hate Over incidents like the one at Kent State. But soon our time was taken With simply trying to bring home the bacon. Between the hurling cost of inflation And endless gas-lines frustration. Corruption was at the highest seat of our government. But with the uncovering of Watergate, we began to repent. Men and women found that their roles of yesterday Were somehow unacceptable to the ERA. Our riots were calmer and we were more at ease. We ended the war and sought inner peace. We changed focus from others onto “self”, Temporarily placing group therapy on a shelf. We became more free To…simply be. We grew in toleration, But, I’m afraid not in moderation. We used our basic resources, And raised the level of divorces Until hardly one family Had escaped the sad calamity. As oil prices soared, It was simply ignored. Having the ability to solve 103


But not willing to involve Ourselves to the point of success We found ourselves in another mess. Tiny nations used “oil power” To openly devour The magnitude of our greatness, And my, how we paid for our lateness. Yet, we rolled into the eighties with hope ascending Once more; Recovering our foundational core We elected a man who challenged us to win At home and abroad-we stood tall once again. Hippies became yuppies who now enjoyed making money Morality was more than a joke that was funny. Even as Aids grabbed headlines and fears raged Yet freedom staged One of her greatest victories with the fall In Germany of the despised Berlin Wall. We have survived three decades more Of blessing and turmoil not experienced before. How funny, it seems That our extremes Have caused such concern And the inevitable return To look once again at our past In order to find something that will last. And so, after close inspection And deep retrospection, I take off my hat To say, “Thank you” for that Which you, the greatest generation taught as platitudes Hoping to mold our attitudes. It took us a little longer than expected Because we so fiercely rejected Things that we now find have proved true. God help us, as He did you, May we return the appreciation By uniting our efforts to save this great nation. 104


Before I Say, “I DO” by Jennifer Workman “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22, NKJV) People nowadays enter into marriage with a very “fantasy-like” ideology of what they believe marriage to be. The bride before the marriage incorporates countless time facilitating all the different aspects of the wedding ceremony. She wants everything to be perfect. The mother and father invest a lot of time, money and energy to give their daughter the wedding of her dreams. The groom is also very excited and anticipates seeing his new bride. But, do either one of them really utilize the time before the “I do” to make sure they are ready and in the place spiritually, psychologically, emotionally or otherwise to have a successful marriage? Because, like it or not, there is life beyond the wedding festivities. Yes there is life beyond fancy dresses, tuxedos, intricate bridal designs, happy faces, great music and luxurious vacations. In reality, that’s the easy part! On the other hand, what is really going to test the couples’ love, commitment and faithfulness to each other is within the covenant of marriage itself! That is why before the couple says “I do,” they must wholeheartedly seek the Lord in prayer and ask for wisdom, discernment and direction as it relates to their relationship in its totality. They need to ask God to open their spiritual vision and help them to see beyond their natural desires and inclinations. Why? Because their future mate can appear to be Mr. or Mrs. Right, say all the right things and “makes the cut” on the "list,” but only God knows the heart and only He can go beyond the surface and see the true motives of a person’s heart, whether it is pure or not. To add, before standing before God and our loved ones making a vow “to love, to cherish” and be faithfully committed to each other, we need to make sure our mind, body and spirit are deeply interconnected with God. Our relationship with God is very imperative and will affect all areas of our life. 105


A couple cannot expect to have a strong, productive or healthy relationship if God is not spearheading every part of their lives. They must always recognize God’s sovereignty and that “He knows what is best” and they must let God transform their lives and make them more like Him so that they can be fruitful in their marriage; because there is nothing more powerful and effective in marriage than two people that are spiritually aligned with God! God is the only one that can allow couples to be Godly mates and loving towards each other. If there is any emotional baggage or other issues that want to plague couples relationships, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that heals, restores and cleanses them and enables them to be free and not allow old issues to take precedence in their lives nor hinder the stability and productiveness of their marriages. God is also needed at the forefront to help both couples make wise decisions no matter what position they find themselves in and to be faithful and supportive of each other throughout the good times as well as the bad. It is easy to say “I love you” when your spouse is physically healthy and attractive, has a successful career, you both see “eye to eye” and everything seems lovely! But, it takes God’s spirit that resides in you, to allow you to stand firm in your relationship with Him as well as your mate when it appears that “all hell is breaking loose” around you and nothing seems to be going right! So, I implore you again that in all you do, especially as it relates to marriage “make first things first” and seek God’s guidance before entering into marriage because it will be the best investment of your time! Let God direct your steps and help you with your “individual self,” so that you can bring your “best self” to the marriage. I believe fully with God’s help and input, you will be able to move forward and enter into marriage with full assurance knowing that you have God orchestrating your every step and in doing so enabling you to say on your wedding day with full confidence “I do!” 106


Christmas Cookie Story by Donna McBroom-Theriot Every year for the past eight years, I have hosted a Cookie Swap. This year was no exception. I thought I’d write about it in the event that someone else may wish to host one, but the mere thought overwhelms them. I am telling you right now – do not let the thought even enter your mind! As long as you have a plan and stick to it, things will work out – or you wing it like I’ve been known to do (or maybe my friends have never caught on! lol) I always try to send out a “Save-the-date” notice the first week of October. I send this notice by email since everyone who is invited has email. If some of your guests do not have email, then send a little note in the mail or give them a call. I also have a spreadsheet that I use each year. It consists of four columns with the headings of: Number, Name (which includes name, address, phone, email), Yes/No (attending) and last, Cookie (or treat bringing). I use the number column, because at a quick glance, I can keep track of how many people are on my list. This way, if someone has been added / taken off, I know I can add someone and still keep the number within reason for the size of my house. Then, I try to mail out the invitation the first week of November with the RSVP date. Sometimes I write something cute and rhyming, and sometimes I use one I have found on the internet. Some years are more of a theme than others are. In 2011, I did a Candy Land theme where I scattered the board pieces from the game around the table and used the matching plates and napkins. It was really cute. That takes care of the invitation portion. With Pinterest, it is so easy to find new appetizers to serve. I started a board named Cookie Swap Ideas so I could quickly pin cookie ideas and appetizer ideas and then I could come back later and explore. I also use Evernote. This app proved to be invaluable in many ways. Once I finalized the appetizer list, I clipped the recipes, complete with pictures to Evernote. Evernote syncs the recipes to my phone and Kindle Fire. It made grocery shopping and cooking a breeze. I pulled up the recipe at the market and quickly scanned the ingredients and added those items to my cart. 107


Throughout the year, I am always scouting for new cookie recipes and appetizer recipes so with Pinterest and Evernote, it makes finding these recipes a snap. I am already clipping and pinning for next year! It’s never too soon! The week before my Cookie Swap, I sit down with the recipes and figure out what can be assembled ahead of time and my baking timeframe. It seems that no matter how carefully I organize and schedule, I am still last minute, and the first guests there generally help with setting everything out. For me, especially this year, it was enjoyable. Judging from the remarks, I think this year was everyone’s favorite so far and I think it was because everyone was helping to get things on the buffet and it made the party – literally – everyone’s party. My sisters and a friend from high school that I was so fortunate to reconnect with last year – were the willing participants in the last minute rush this year. It was so much fun laughing and talking and rushing around. So, you can see that in my case, not having everything ready and waiting for the guests is part of the fun – for everyone. So don’t stress out! Cookie Swap is all about fun. Let’s talk cookies now. I have read that many cookie swaps have a lot of rules and it works for them. I came up with my own set of “rules” based on my guests. I have friends who cannot bake, and some who make candy. My only die-hard rule is the treat MUST be homemade. Each year, we have a mix of candy, no-bake (for those non-bakers) and baked cookies. No one ever feels left out because everyone puts a lot of effort into their products (we are quite the competitive bunch!) After the RSVPs come in, I then email everyone with the number of treats to bring. I keep the number of participants down to a reasonable number and we bake and package six treats for each person coming. I have noticed that many cookie swaps ask that the person bake x amount of cookies and bring them on a platter and then they are distributed among those attending. I wasn’t particularly crazy about that idea (nor my guests) so we package our treats for each individual person. My friends are very creative and the packaging is one of the highlights. We also have the option of using our six cookies for the taste testing contest (more on that later.)

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I provide a huge Christmas gift bag for each guest, which I set up in the living room. As each guest arrives, she distributes the treats (and a copy of her recipe) among the bags first, and then places their treats on the platters on the table for tasting. Since each guest may leave at a different time, she can just grab her bag on the way out. I find that this method of distribution works great for my cookie swap. Let’s see. So far, we have discussed invites, food prep, and cookie distribution. Next on the list is entertainment! It has become a tradition (because Hubby loves to be involved) that we have a story. The stories have ranged from Christmas to Candy Land to baking, etc. Everyone looks forward each year to see what Jeffery has in store. This year, he did a story that contained Christmas songs and lyrics from Christmas songs. I’ll include it as an example. I am the one who gets to read the story and I must say that trying to establish a speed is difficult. I want to give everyone an equal chance to pick out all of the information, but not too much time – how else would we have a winner? But, it does work each year and it’s a lot of fun!

Word Game Story It came upon a midnight clear, when away in a manger a child was born. There were no jingle bells, frosty the snowman, or Rudolph. But it was a silent night and even more, a holy night. The people of that era were deep in despair and had very little hope. They cried out ”o come o come Emanuel”. And He did. He came as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes to silence the cry of the poor, to build a city of God, and to bring joy to the world. Although He was not born in a beautiful setting like a winter wonderland, He did bring the first white Christmas to the little town of Bethlehem. This was brought about by His birth and sacrificing His life for ours, to free all humankind from sin and e’re pinning. So hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king, Christ is born in Bethlehem, and the world has never been the same. May God wish ye merry gentlemen a merry Christmas and a happy new year. We always have a best tasting treat contest. It is based NOT on how the treat looks, but how it tastes to the palate. This can get pretty intense at times. This year a chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookie won the honor. It provoked childhood memories for many of us, a taste of nostalgia. 109


Do you remember as a child, the day the school cafeteria served those scrumptious chocolate oatmeal no-bake treats? I do, and so did many others. It was deserving of a prize this year. We have enjoyed many games throughout the years and enjoyed every one. Our last game this year was a new addition. A friend told me of a game that she had played at another cookie swap and it sounded like loads of fun so I added it this year. I asked everyone to bring a wrapped cookie cutter for a “Swap and Steal” game. I have to admit at this point, it was kind of a make it up as you go game and it ended up being so much fun that I am going to include it next year. The first round of the game, each person pulled a gift out of the basket as I called her name. The second round was where the fun began. As each name was called, you had the chance to keep your chosen gift or “Swap and Steal” someone else’s gift. There was a lot of cheering and yelling of “steal” going on because there was one gift everyone seemed to want – it was a beautiful gift bag! After much hooting and hollering, everyone had a gift of a new cookie cutter. Games are another place to add loads of fun to the party. Let your imagination go wild: Prettiest Christmas outfit (or hat or shirt, etc.), craziest Christmas outfit, first to RSVP, # of gumballs in the jar (Hubby counted and wouldn't even tell me the number - I had to call him when we played the game) (or jelly beans, etc.), best cookie packaging. The ideas are endless! Food – what can I say about food? I (and my friends – especially book club friends) DO NOT subscribe to the old adage that you do not try out new recipes for the first time on company. That is EXACTLY when we do it. In the food department – I say do what is comfortable for you. Either stick to tried and true recipes and maybe be adventurous and throw in one new recipe for a thrill. Up until this year, I always tried to do a new soup of the year, but not being much of a soup person, I have to admit, that got old. I did, however, discover that the ladies all love my chicken potpie. That has led me to use it several years in a row, but with a new twist each year. One year, I used my shell maker (I love gadgets) and made biscuit shells for the sauce (chicken potpie filling). The next year, I used little individual pie shells and last year I used Pepperidge Farms puff pastry shells (my all-time fav). This year I used biscuits again, but used an idea I saw on-line. I lined muffin tins with rolled out biscuits. I then filled each one with the sauce and then folded the dough over the top and baked. Have I mentioned how wonderful they tasted? AND, what a hit! 110


Also on the menu were little sausages in a cranberry sauce, the old standby of cheese and sausage balls, along with a pizza muffin/dipping sauce (again – on-line), a fantastic warm Caramelized onion and Gruyere cheese dip, an oriental salad, and can’t forget the Shrimp Dip (this is Southern Louisiana after all!) For beverages, I have a great Pineapple Punch that is addictive – no kidding, I cannot have just one glass – ask all who dare! And, this year, I found a Jingle Juice. I just loved the name and the taste wasn’t bad either! It made more than one lady a little too happy! lol (Did not let anyone leave tipsy.) I came across a great app this year called Postagram. It is the neatest postcard program! You just take a picture with your camera and send it to them. They do all the work. They make it into a postcard and mail it for you for 99 cents. I can't wait to use it on vacation! To come up with the above postcard (which will be this year's invitation) I first decided on my photos, then used the Instacollage app to choose the layout. Once I completed the layout, along with the lettering, I saved it to my photos. My first thought was to take them to a store and print the number I needed and then mail, but no one prints square photos. Somehow, I came across Postagram and my problem was solved. I received three free postcards just for signing up so I used them to test the app. I obviously did not read all the fine print (no surprise there) so I was pleasantly surprised when I received my card in the mail! It arrived on time and the photo is actually a punch out and the invite info is located on the reverse side as well as on the front of the postcard. How awesome is that! All my friends need to do is punch out the photo and put it on their calendar or the refrigerator, and if they forget the date (which they had better not) it is on the back! My plan for next year is to use a group photo that I forgot to take last year. That way, each person attending will also have a keepsake. (I use an iPhone.) This is what the postcard looks like: I hope you are inspired to try your own Cookie Swap this holiday season. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the season with your family and friends! 111


Books by Amy Lignor Great Reads, and Great Gifts for the Holidays! 13 In 1902, in a dark room on the fifth floor of Carnegie Hall, thirteen people came together to continue a tradition that had been set in stone thousands of years before. In 2012, Leah Tallent is Head of Research at the New York Public Library. Stoic and stable, brilliant and cynical, she has forever enjoyed her existence among the book stacks. But even with her unparalleled intellect, there was no way to know that on the historic steps between America's famous lions, she would become involved with a crazy man on a fanatical quest. Gareth Lowery has spent his life searching for the ultimate artifact that he is certain exists. His life's pursuit has been to retrieve twelve keys hidden by men whose job it was to protect the single biggest secret ever kept. To find the keys he must enlist the help of an unwilling guide who, unfortunately, knows much more than he bargained for. From the first page to the last word, this fantastic duo becomes immersed in a whirlwind treasure hunt with historical and passionate repercussions. From the strange and eerie Winchester House to the blustery darkness of Loch Ness, Gareth and Leah will quickly learn that the theory of duality is correct: For every bad there is a good and, for Heaven, there most assuredly exists...Hell.

The Sapphire Storm After going up against a man who believed he was the Devil, himself, the beloved characters from 13 - Leah Tallent and Gareth Lowery - are beyond exhausted. Now they are about to embark on the most terrifying journey imaginable…a trip to meet Leah’s parents. When Leah arrives where the ‘home fires burn,’ her sarcasm burns even brighter, while Gareth Lowery - the handsome adventurer - uses his charm to sway the ‘odd’ Tallent clan. But when a frightening call from Gareth’s sister arrives telling him that her love has disappeared, the daring duo is soon running away from one horrific situation directly into another. A new puzzle from the past has come to life. Following clues left behind, the courageous couple becomes embedded in a world filled with liars, killers and greed. And when the riddle of a famous ‘Bard’ is solved, a strange woman appears who has far more in common with Leah than she can possibly imagine! The heart-stopping suspense of this new quest takes them from Coptic Cairo to the magical world of Petra, in search of a cave deep underground that once housed a true ‘Illuminator.’ Yet again, they must find the answers and stay one step ahead of true villains who are determined to make sure that – this time – Tallent & Lowery do not survive. 112


Meet Kristi Burchfiel The reason I write is to help people not just to understand the truths in the Bible, but to actually apply them to their daily life. I have two styles of books. The daily devotional series of books are designed to be brief and focused on just one truth from scripture that a person can easily remember and hold to for that day along with a response back to God committing to applying that truth. Currently there are 6 books available in that series going through various books from the Old and New Testament. The two Bible studies, Without Regrets and The Decay Within, are designed to be more in-depth through a specific book of the Bible. Those go verse by verse and cover the historical background in which the book was written and then how God intends for us to apply those truths in our lives today. Visit Kristi on her blog at www.kristiburchfiel.com for more information about her books. Without Regrets is a 12-session book going through Ecclesiastes and discusses our priorities and focus in life. The Decay Within is a 10session book going through Amos and deals with the issue of repentance.

Without Regrets If only . . . Each person alive could complete that thought with any number of phrases expressing sorrow, lost wishes, and faded dreams. In a word: regrets. But, are regrets inevitable? Without Regrets: A Study of Ecclesiastes meets this question head on. This study aims to help readers understand the basic principles found in the Bible for recognizing actions and attitudes that lead to regrets, while learning through examples from the life of Solomon. The practical explanations and examples make this study simple enough for a beginner, yet the profound truths will be challenging for even the season Bible scholar. What does it take to live a life Without Regrets? Join author Kristi Burchfiel as she guides you through the book of Ecclesiastes to seek out the answer. 113


The Decay Within Are you decaying from the inside out? When others look at your life, what do they see? Someone who seems to have it all together with the perfect clothes, the perfect kids, and the perfect marriage? But what’s behind that perfect façade? Who are you on the inside? We may look like we have it all together, when, in reality, we’re rotting away like the bones inside a beautifully decorated tomb. God sent Amos to give the people of Israel a message of judgment and destruction. They looked like they had it all together, but their focus was on the pleasures of this world. In this Bible study, the reader will work through the words of Amos as he pleads with the people of Israel to replace their decaying foundation with one that is living, fresh, and whole. Amos’s words will resonate with 21st-century readers who encounter the same challenges in new forms. Are you tired of acting like you have it all together when inside you’re falling apart? Join author Kristi Burchfiel as she guides you through a study on how to experience abundant life and drive out The Decay Within.

Devotional and Bible Study Books by Kristi Burchfiel

Does a cup of coffee or an energy drink typically start your day? While that may wake you up physically, what are you doing each day to wake up spiritually? How do you find time in your busy, hectic schedule to focus on truth from God’s word? The Daily Devotional Series is designed provide each day with a quick and simple devotional that can be read in less than 5 minutes. However, it focuses on one truth from the Bible that a person can take with them, think about, and apply all day long. Each devotional includes the verse from the Bible, a truth from that verse, and a response to pray back to God. www.kristiburchfiel.com

For more information about the devotional and Bible study books by Kristi Burchfiel, please visit her blog at www.kristiburchfiel.com

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Stop by Katherine’s Corner and enter to win the Pocket Full of Cash Giveaway and Apron Swap Begins December 6th Enter to win $75 CASH and a charming apron from Katherine’s Corner AND a bonus opportunity to participate in the upcoming

Apron Swap! 115


The War on Christmas by Bodie Hodge Advent Book Tour and Giveaway at Ruby for Women Find the truth about Christmas and the Christian’s response to a culture that seems to be declaring war on the traditions and the Bible! Christmas–with its holiday lights, bright packages and nativity displays–has become a controversial frontline in the increasingly intolerant culture wars. Whether or not to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” how to refer to the tree and just how “Biblical” Christmas may actually be is debated online, during city council meetings and in courtrooms each year. Filled with family get-togethers, office parties, breaks from school and festivities - Christmas should be a time of peace and love — not arguments over who can celebrate what or where or when. So why has so much controversy clouded this sacred holiday? It has become ground zero in an ongoing culture war where Nativity scenes are mixed and even the word “Christmas” is considered offensive by some. Get the facts behind the history, relevance and Biblical connections of this beloved holiday: Is it a bunch of pagan symbols or traditions “Christianized” for the celebration? Why is a Christian concept of Christmas so important for those who don’t believe in Jesus? Most may say Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but are we truly worshiping Him or just celebrating the earthly gifts we give ourselves?

Enter to win a copy of

The War on Christmas by visiting the Ruby for Women blog today! The War on Christmas is now available from Ruby’s Reading Corner. 116


Celebrate the Holidays with a River Cruise to Europe’s Christmas Markets! by Erica Kritt, The Cruise Web Team We all know that Christmas should be more than just a chance to exchange presents. It’s a time to spend with family and friends, to rejoice in the season. In America, it seems every family has their own set of traditions, from cookie exchanges to wearing matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. One tradition that American’s don’t really have is the tradition of the Christmas Market. However, this charming custom is alive and well in the towns and cities of Europe! Dating back to medieval times, Christmas Markets consist of vendors who set up stalls in the town squares and centers to sell their wares during the four weeks of Advent. These craft festivals have a special magic to them as you get a chance to eat locally grown food prepared from regional recipes, learn about local traditions and fill your eyes with the wonderful handiwork of local artisans. In recent years more and more people have gotten to experience these amazing markets because river cruise lines like Avalon, Uniworld and Viking have arranged holiday cruises centered around these markets. These family friendly cruises give Americans and other travelers a chance to visit several of these markets during this magical season. Traveling via river cruise ship makes these excursions effortless because you don’t have to spend your vacation driving or taking the train from city to city. As you sleep and enjoy beautiful five course dinners featuring local specialties you are on your way to another European city or town with exciting history and most importantly a historic Christmas Market! The markets themselves range in size and scope; some only having a handful of vendors, while others have 200 or more. A staple in these markets are the Gluhwein stations. Gluhwein is a hot mulled wine which is sometimes enhanced with a shot of brandy. Other treats presented throughout these markets are gingerbread cookies, as well as candied and toasted nuts. There are also snacks to eat while you walk around like bratwurst and pretzels, and plenty of food to take home as gifts. 117


And the setting is like that of a fairy tale, located in town squares , often in front of a palace or large cathedral, these markets can be decorated with twinkling lights, giant spruce trees and in some instances even live nativity scenes and carolers. Here are three Christmas markets with wares that are very unique to each place. •

Nuremburg, Germany Prune Men – Little figurines made of figs, prunes and walnuts intended to be put inside your windows while facing outwards to protect the family.

Dresden, Germany Dresdener Stollen – A fruit cake made with dried fruit and sometimes marzipan. The first mention of this traditional holiday treat was in 1474.

Salzburg, Austria Painted Egg Ornaments - Hollowed out eggs are painted with intricate detail to use as decorations for the holiday.

Another bonus to visiting Christmas Markets on a river cruise is the fact that once you get back onboard you can warm up with a hot coffee, hot chocolate or a snuggle under your covers. Erica Kritt works at The Cruise Web. The Cruise Web is a travel agency that specializes in cruising. The expert cruise consultants focus on providing travelers with the best value for their time and money in finding and booking a cruise vacation! Visit The Cruise Web for the best Christmas Market river cruise deals. All photos credit Avalon Waterways 118


Hexagon Puzzle Answer Key by Beth Brubaker

Word Grid Puzzle Answer Key by Beth Brubaker

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Are you a writer? Do you love to cook or craft? You are invited to submit your stories, articles, poems, recipes or crafts for publication in the spring 2014 issue of Ruby for Women. Please send your submissions to Amanda Johnson, Assistant Editor, at ajohnson@rubyforwomen.com For advertising inquiries, please contact editor@rubyforwomen.com

www.booksbyamanda.com

Mission Possible by Deborah McCarragher Mission Possible is a non-fiction book written for women who love the Lord Jesus, but their spouse doesn’t share their passion. It will encourage and challenge the reader to embrace God’s promises for their spouse and future together. http://www.spirituallyunevenmarriage.com

Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy www.create-with-joy.com 120


Meet the Ruby for Women Writers Aunt Dots, Master Gardener Aunt Dots has been writing for Ruby for Women since the very beginning. Her love for gardening started early in her life: “I believe I got my love for growing flowers from my mother. She had a large flower garden with annuals and dahlias. I had my first flower garden after I married and we lived in a garden apartment.” She now has perennial gardens, rose gardens, grape vines, asparagus, currants, gooseberries, walnut trees, apple trees, and hazelnut trees. In the winter months, Aunt Dots sews, making quilts that she has donated to a Mennonite Relief auction.

Beth Brubaker, Footprints in the Mud and Ask Beth Beth is the “Family Fun” editor here in the Ruby for Women community. She is a mother of two very active kids whose antics are sprinkled liberally in her columns. She has been married for 13 years to her Knight in Shining Armor, and she is delighted to share with us that they still hold hands in public! Her day job is working as a fabric artist, a homemaker, and a writer. Beth will be writing humorous articles about life in general, puzzles, and an advice column that is based on readers’ questions, as well as sharing hints and tips for everyday life that she comes across in her travels between her laundry room, living room, and kitchen. Don’t miss Beth’s columns in every issue of Ruby for Women! You can read more of Beth’s posts on her blog, “Footprints in the Mud” at www.footprintsinthemudblog.blogspot.com or email her at bethatruby@aol.com

Lanette Kissel lives in southern Indiana with her adopted Yorkie-Poo, Benjy. She enjoys singing in her huge choir at Crossroads Christian Church. She has been a freelance writer of Christian/Inspirational poetry for twelve years. Recently, she has been writing Inspirational articles and essays, as well as devotions. Her work has appeared in: Mature Living Magazine, Purpose, Live, The War Cry, The Lutheran Journal, The Catholic Yearbook, Silver Wings, Inspired Women Magazine, and others.

Lynn Mosher, Devotions

Since the year 2000, Lynn Mosher has lived with fibromyalgia and other physical conditions. During this time, the Lord placed the desire in her heart to write for Him. Now, armed with God’s purpose for her life and a new passion, she reaches out to others to encourage and comfort them through her writing, giving God all the glory. She lives with her husband in their empty nest in Kentucky. On occasion, their three offspring, who have flown the coop, come to visit, accompanied by a son-in-law and three granddaughters. Visit Lynn at her blog, at http://lynnmosher.com 121


Katherine Corrigan, Recipes and Crafts Katherine is a blogger at Katherine’s Corner, an artist, designer, tea drinker and hug giver. She has been a contributor to Ruby for Women for three years. She is originally from England. But she has lived in the USA since 1975. She holds a rare dual citizenship with the UK and the USA and is a proud citizen of both. She greets each day with grace, dignity and gratitude. Thanking God for her strength as she continues to encourage others and moves forward despite her physical challenges. She is happily married and has five grandchildren. After 30 years of working in the medical field and managing other people’s businesses Katherine has her own online shop and graphics business. She never hesitates to contribute to Ruby for Women. She says, “Being part of Ruby for Women is like getting a big hug every day.” Blog http://KatherinesCorner.com Blog Graphics at http://BlogArtByKatherine.com Shop http://KeepsakesByKatherine.etsy.com

Theresa Ceniccola is The Christian Mompreneur, a Mentor to Moms Who are Running a Business that Supports Faith and Family. She empowers entrepreneurial moms to build profitable businesses with wisdom and grace through the Christian Mompreneur Mastermind program and her professional Marketing services, which include copywriting, marketing and strategy www.theresaceniccola.com. consulting and private coaching.

Heather King is a wife to a wonderful husband and a mom to three beautiful girls. A former English teacher, she now lives a life of doing dishes, folding laundry, finding lost toys and mending scraped knees. She treks to the grocery store more times a week than she’d like and struggles to keep up with chores, appointments and the to-do list that refreshes itself day after day. In addition to all that, she’s the worship leader at her church in Virginia, a Bible study teacher and women’s ministry leader. Somewhere in the middle of the noise, mess, and busyness of life, she takes time to meet with God at her kitchen table with a Bible, a journal and a cup of strong hot tea with lots of sugar. You can find her blogging about these times with God at her devotional site: Room To Breathe: http://heathercking.wordpress.com/

Donna McBroom-Theriot, Writer. Book Reviewer. Southern Lady. My life is like an episode of "I love Lucy!" I'm a writer, book reviewer, and a Southern Lady who loves her Sweet Tea. My blog: My Life. One Story at a Time. I've been writing since 2009. As luck would have it, the very first short story I wrote was published within months of my writing it. This quote pretty much sums me up: "Deep in my heart, I know there’s no promise I’ll be free from trouble in this life. In fact, I’m usually either getting out of trouble, currently in trouble, or about to meet trouble around the next corner." Well, you know the saying, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions" – that’s usually mine! Join me. It's bound to be a bumpy ride! 122


Sharmelle “Shar,” Graphic Design I am passionate about graphic design and photography, and I spend a great deal of time developing my talents. Like many, I had set my career aside for a few years while working on other projects, but I found that I missed working with others and feel that many people need support and encouragement to follow their dreams. I have recently resumed the art of design and photography, and I have trained myself in the modern tools of today’s visual artists, using the computer. I’m sure that if, when I was a child, I could have had a computer, I might not ever have gone to school at all! You can find my graphic designs for use on blogs and websites in the Ruby for Women community at Sharmelle’s Graphic Haven. http://rubyforwomen.ning.com/group/sharmelle-s-graphic-haven Full time mother and author, Corallie Buchanan, is a woman who writes from her heart. Corallie writes regularly for the Christian Woman magazine, Australia's premier magazine for Christian women. In addition to her editing her own work, she contributes material to a number of magazines in the US including The Haven Journal, Inspired Women Magazine, and Ruby for Women. Sharing God's message of love and forgiveness, and mentoring other young writers is her passion. Corallie is also the author of Watch Out! Godly Women on the Loose; a book which won her the award of Young Australian Christian Writer of the Year in 2007. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Behavioural Studies from the University of Queensland, and a Master's Degree in Divinity from Malyon Baptist Theological College. She lives her with husband and daughter in Brisbane, Australia. http://www.coralliebuchanan.com.au/

Cindy Bailey of Waynesburg, PA is a longtime writer, journalist, librarian, church musician, wife and mom of two girls who somehow managed to grow up in spite of my general confusion and overall disorganization. I publish my own local newspaper called GreeneSpeak (www.greenespeak.com) which has earned numerous awards from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, and for over 20 years I’ve been writing and publishing my Cindy’s Wind column now on Facebook, and on my blog: www.cindyswind.blogspot.com which I recently launched and where I plan to post new as well as “classic” pieces from my arsenal of slice-of-life essays from 25 years of parenting and living. I don’t have a lot of answers, but I have humor and I have hope in the Lord, and that’s what my readers tell me they see in my work.

Rhea B. Riddle was born in Kentucky, in a little town on the Ohio River at the time of the famous flood of 1937, which may have contributed to her sense of drama, and to an amplified love of life. A world view influenced by gentle traditions and strong Christian family ties, boosted her desire to reflect the recollections of a willful (though loving) youngster who was filled with longings to explore, to reason, and write of the vibrations of daily living that surrounded her. She hopes to lure you with current life adventures (truth and fiction) as well as draw you to visit a time of “rewound” living!” 123


Gloria Doty: I am a mother of 5 and grandmother of 13. I have owned a catering business, and a Grade A goat dairy. I have managed a restaurant, worked in retail and was Dir. of Children’s’ Ministries for a large church for 10 years. I have been writing since I was in third grade. I currently write 2 blogs about my youngest daughter, Kalisha, and our journey together through the world of mild mental retardation, autism and Aspergers. One blog is written for www.MOMS.FortWayne.com and is titled “Not Different Enough”. The other blog is www.gettingitright-occasionally.blogspot.com I write freelance articles for magazines and am a contributor to two devotional publications: Living the Gospel Life and Hope-Full Living. I do not believe it is possible to make it through a day without faith and a sense of humor, even in the darkest times and I try to always reflect that in my writing.

Theresa Nelson is a mother of a 9 year old son and a 24 year old daughter. She and her husband have been married for 26 years. Theresa’s writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Focus on the Family, Christian Home and School, The Plain Truth, Hearts at Home, ParentLife, Welcome Home, Hope Chest, Women of Spirit, and Seek. Readers can contact Theresa at author.theresa.e.nelson@gmail.com

Connie Arnold, Poetry lives in North Carolina, is married and has two children and three grandchildren. In coping with lupus, fibromyalgia and other difficulties, she has turned to the Lord for inspiration and offers her inspirational poetry to offer encouragement, comfort and hope to others who are suffering. She is the author of Beautiful Moments of Joy and Peace, Abiding Hope and Love, and Abundant Comfort and Grace plus a new 2012 inspirational calendar, Glimpses of Grace. She also writes for children and is the author of Animal Sound Mix-up and has two other children’s books under contract. You can visit Connie at www.conniearnold.webs.com or her blog, www.conniearnold.blogspot.com

Patrice Dianne Wilkerson is 29 years old and lives in Nelson, VA.

She has been writing poetry since she was eight years old and has always aspired to be a poet. She published a book of poetry in 2010 entitled, “Through It All, I’m Going to Make It.” She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Virginia in August of 2005 and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from Liberty University Online in Lynchburg, VA in August of 2011. She enjoys writing Christian poetry because she wants to minister to others about the wonderful works of God. 124


Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh, but she was raised in the rural town of Conneautville. She attended and graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English-Literature in 2009. Her poetry, articles, reviews, and short stories have appeared in several journals online and in print. Her poetry chapbook A Mermaid Crashing into Dawn was recently published by Fowlpox Press. Visit Linda online at her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Linda-M-Crate/129813357119547 Etsy Shop: http://www.etsy.com/people/ravenofthewolf Blog: http://theravensnevermore.blogspot.com/

Elizabeth Baker is an author and retired counselor drawing on thirty-five years of experience helping individuals apply biblical principles to real-life situations. She currently lives in Pittsburg, Texas where she concentrates on her writing. A widow since her mid 30's, Elizabeth has four grown children, fifteen grandchildren, and six great-grands. You can find Elizabeth’s books at her website at www.elizabethbakerbooks.com

Amanda Stephan is a multi-published Christian romance author who loves sharing God’s love with others. A homeschooling mother and stay at home wife, she finds pleasure in many things from sewing, to baseball and karate, to writing. She is currently working on a three book Christian romantic suspense series and resides in Columbia, TN, with her real-life hero husband of 8 years and two children. You can find Amanda at her website http://www.BooksByAmanda.com http://www.thepriceoftrust.com http://www.twitter.com/amandastephan https://www.facebook.com/creativehomemomma

Sharon Patterson, retired educator, career military wife, and leader in women's ministry, has written inspirational encouragement in various forms from greeting cards to short stories, poetry, and Bible studies for over thirty years. She has authored three books: A Soldier's Strength from the Psalms (2007); Healing for the Holes in Our Souls(2008); and Where Is Happy?(2011). She is a contributing author for Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Miracles and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Answered Prayer; also Gettin' Old Ain't for Wimps (Karen O'Connor,2004) and Special Strength for Special Parents (Nina Fuller, 2006). She and her husband Garry live in Round Rock, Texas. They have three sons and five grandchildren. Kristi Burchfiel is an author of devotional and Bible study books, and she is also a contribution writer for Ruby for Women. Her daily devotionals for every day of the month are available on the Ruby for Women community website, as well as the Ruby for Women blog. You can also find her daily devotionals in the Ruby for Women magazine. For more information about the devotional and Bible study books by Kristi Burchfiel, please visit her blog at www.kristiburchfiel.com 125


Hey y’all! My name is Taylor DeVine. I live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere but I absolutely love it! Riding horses, working cattle, working with horses, reading, writing, running, and cooking are my passions. A mantra of mine is "Fearlessness." Never be afraid to stand up for what you believe in, what you're passionate about, and what you know you have been equipped by the Holy Spirit to do. When you are waiting on God to open another door, praise Him in the hallway Subscribe to my blog www.heartofthewood.wordpress.com

Bel Thomson is an award-winning Australian singer, songwriter and speaker whose ministry takes her to conferences, schools, camps, outreach events, and Christian churches of all denominations. To listen to her music or enquire about bookings visit www.belthomson.com . To connect with Bel’s ministry: www.facebook.com/BelThomsonOfficial and www.youtube.com/BelThomson

Tricia Goyer

is an acclaimed and prolific writer, publishing hundreds of articles in national magazines including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family while authoring more than twenty-five fiction and nonfiction books combined. Among those are 3:16 Teen Edition with Max Lucado and the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award winners Night Song and Dawn of a Thousand Nights. She has also written books on marriage and parenting and contributed notes to the Women of Faith Study Bible. Tricia lives with her husband and four children in Arkansas. Connect with Tricia at www.triciagoyer.com

Daphne Tarango is a freelance writer who comforts others with the comfort she has received from God. Daphne is a recovery speaker and writers’ group president. She has published numerous inspirational articles in print and online magazines, including several entries in two collections: Women of the Secret Place and Chronicles of a Walk with Christ. Daphne is married to Luis and in the past several months, has resigned from corporate life to take a position as a stay-at-home mom of three adopted children. To connect with Daphne, visit her blog: http://DaphneWrites.com. Pop over and share your brave Mama story!

Michelle S. Lazurek has been a pastor's wife for over twelve years. Whether it is through writing counseling material, organizing ladies retreats or mentoring women in her church, Michelle considers each day an opportunity to find her place in God's story. In 2007, Michelle and her husband Joe planted Praxis Church. Michelle holds a Master's degree in Counseling and Human Relations from Liberty University. She has two beautiful children: Caleb and Leah. Michelle provides tips for busy writers on her blog The Writers’ Tapestry: Where Writing and Life Intertwine http://www.michellelazurek.com 126


Meg Manning is a free-lance writer whose writings focus primarily on theology, the history of Christianity, and the role of women in the church. She studied at Indiana Wesleyan, and Wesley Seminary. She has been writing since her sophomore year in college. Writing is her calling and her passion. You can read more of Meg’s articles on her blog, Wayfarer Pondering.

Cindy J. Evans is a published Christian poet living in the greater Atlanta area. She enjoys church activities, inspirational movies, Ferris wheels and grand openings. She is still learning to go to her heavenly Father for comfort and not Ben & Jerry!

Donna B. Comeaux resides in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband, Glenn. Together, they have two wonderful children and five grandchildren. It has been her lifelong passion to become a writer. After working many years as a legal assistant, she is absolutely thrilled she can now write fulltime. She draws her inspiration from her life, the life of others, the news, and her wild and vivid imagination. She is a freelance writer and has contributed to Ezinearticles.com, Yahoo.com, and her website A Writer First. She has written several poems for funerals and weddings, and is in the process of editing her first completed family saga, White Castle. She hopes to soon begin work on her second novel, Taken by Choice, and begin writing a collection of short stories in 2014.

Aileen Stewart is “just your average mom. A gum chewing, bubble blowing, shower singing, flower planting, cookie baking, craft making, photo taking, reading, WRITING, kind of mom who loves the Lord, her husband, soon to be eight year old daughter, and crazy cat Max. I have many interests and hobbies, but the two I'm most passionate about are writing and photography. I am a published award winning author of the book Fern Valley - A Collection of Short Stories and an award winning amateur photographer who was just blessed with a brand new Nikon 3100D. I'm super excited to start taking fabulous pictures with my dream camera.

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Keith Wallis, Poet-in-Residence Keith Wallis is an English poet. He is a senior part of the leadership team of Houghton Regis Baptist church. An engineering designer by trade, he brings an eye for detail as well as faith into his poetry. As well as being ‘poet in residence’ at Ruby ezine, he is a moderator at ChristianWriters.com. His blog of ekphrasic poetry is: http://wordsculptures-keith.blogspot.com/ where you’ll also find links to his books and his other blogs. Married to Val in 1970, he has two sons and three grandsons. The eldest grandson is disabled and cannot communicate verbally. Though not an ‘academic’ (school was a disaster!) he was always fond of writing. He began submitting work for publication in the 1980’s after being encouraged by a community writer in residence.

Amanda Johnson, Assistant Editor Amanda has been writing for Ruby for Women for over three years, and she has been a free-lance writer for several years, beginning her writing career as a young teen-ager. She also worked for Love Unveiled, a ministry to women in undeveloped countries around the world. Amanda brings experience as well as a passion for ministry to the work of Ruby for Women, and she has a heart for reaching out and touching the hearts and lives of women everywhere. Amanda will be working with all of our writers on their submissions, as well as assisting in keeping the Ruby for Women blog and website up-to-date with new information daily.

Nina Newton, Sr. Editor When all of my four older children were in school, I returned to college as a “non-traditional student.” Eventually, I earned degrees in Classics and Philosophy, and a graduate degree in Medieval Studies: History of Theology. After teaching at a small community college in Michigan for seven years, my husband and I were blessed with the adoption of our two beautiful daughters, Gracie and Annie. Gracie is 13 years old and Annie is 11. They were both born in China, and we were able to travel to China two times to bring our daughters home. We live in northern Indiana in a small farming community where I work on Ruby for Women in my home office. I also work at Huntington University, Huntington, Indiana as the Curriculum Assistant for the Graduate and Professional Programs, as well as teaching as an adjunct instructor in Biblical and theological studies. My personal blog is at www.mamaslittletreasures.com where I frequently post tutorials and patterns for crafts and other sewing projects, as well as weekly reflections on life as a woman, wife, mother, and daughter of the King. 128


Credits and Copyrights All stories and articles are copyright by the authors. All pictures and images are copyright by the authors and / or have been purchased, used by permission or are in the public domain. If any pictures or images have been used inadvertently, and they do not belong in this publication, please email us and we will immediately remove them. Nothing in this issue of Ruby for Women may be reproduced, copied, or shared without the permission of the author. Advertising information is available at www.rubyforwomen.com/advertise Questions? Email Nina @ editor@rubyforwomen.com or Amanda @ ajohnson@rubyforwomen.com Ruby for Women is published by rubyforwomen.com All submission inquiries should be directed to Nina Newton, Sr. Editor Ruby for Women editor@rubyforwomen.com or Amanda Johnson, Assistant Editor ajohnson@rubyforwomen.com Advertising inquiries should be directed to editor@rubyforwomen.com Creative Consultant, Katherine Corrigan of Made It For You www.madeitforyou.com

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Ruby winter 2013 2014 120113  

The winter issue of Ruby for Women features over 120 pages of inspirational articles, devotionals, stories, poems, crafts, recipes, book rev...

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