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WELCOME HOME

I recently wrote a post about “the search for church.”  We were finding more and more issues with the last church we attended, and really concentrated on praying about it and  rethinking our attitudes.  A few weeks ago we decided to return to the church that we had liked except for the pastor’s sermons.  What is more important?  The ability to worship in a meaningful and beautiful manner, to share communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ, to share each other’s burdens by sharing prayer requests…..or having a really exciting, stimulating message each week?  We opted for the former.

We felt good from the moment we walked in the door.  The people were friendly, the music was beautiful, AND the pastor’s sermon was very good too.  We left that day, eager for next Sunday.  And that week we weren’t disappointed either.  Or the next.  We were finally feeling like we belonged there…that it was the right place for us.  Our search was over.

As we left the sanctuary this past Sunday, the pastor hurried over to greet us.  He extended his hand…”Welcome home” he said.  I almost cried then and there.  We chatted a few minutes –long enough to verify that he didn’t think we were some long lost members of the congregation who had, indeed, “returned home.”  We felt like our decision had been confirmed, and left with a real peace in our hearts.  It feels good to be home.

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Wow….it took a lot of effort, but have finally arrived at that part of the holiday where I can just sit in my recliner, cup of tea close by, and just RELAX.  Contemplate on all that has been accomplished, and thinking with delight of the surprises in store for friends and family. 

Everything is baked, including a new recipe:  Chocolate Espresso Hazelnut Cookies.  These are very good.  VERY good.  So are the sugar cookies baked with bits of crushed candy cane in the dough.  When they come out of the oven, and the candies are soft and melted….yum!  I hurriedly wrapped up more than half of these cookies for gifts, much to hubby’s dismay.  If it’s one thing he loves in life, it’s a cookie. 

I’ve made peanut butter balls, fudge and 5 batches of peanut brittle.  Most of this going to my gluten-intolerant brother.  Thankfully the microwave makes making peanut brittle an absolute snap…in under 15 minutes.  I made some with peanuts, and some with cashews, and I think the peanut kind is better.

Tonight after supper I made a frog-eye salad.  This is something new we tried last year, and it was a big hit with everyone who got to try it.  It’s similar to ambrosia, tho there is a cooked custard of sugar, flour, pineapple juice and eggs, added to a tub of coolwhip and combined with the drained fruit (pineapple and mandarin oranges). You also boil half a box of tiny pasta….the “frog eyes” and mix this in.   It all sits in the frig overnight, and before serving you add the coconut and mini marshmallows.  We’ll be serving it up, along with a green salad, at our pizza dinner Christmas Eve.

For our Christmas dinner, I’ll be bringing the rolls….and some dressing to go with the smoked turkey.  I’m not a fan of smoked turkey, but I greatly enjoy all the side dishes served with it!

Tomorrow night we’ll go to the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church.  Looking forward to that and focusing on the “reason for the season.” 

That’s it for now.  I wish each and every one of you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS, and all best wishes for the New Year!

EMMANUEL

EMMANUEL…GOD WITH US.

In the midst of all my busyness…..Emmanuel.

When I’m so tired I don’t think I can take another step…..Emmanuel.

When I’m trying so hard to please and it just isn’t working….Emmanuel.

When I lose my temper in frustration….Emmanuel.

And when I find that quiet time to center myself, and remember what this season is all about, and I communicate with my God….Emmanuel.

ENERGIZE ME!

One of the games I waste time on on Facebook dictates that you use energy points to play, and when it’s out, you request more from your game-playing friends.  If only it were that easy to energize oneself!

I could really use a big dose of energy right now.  In spite of the beautiful weather we are enjoying, I am affected by S.A.D.  Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Rather common in this northern clime, where we don’t get a lot of Vit D  in the winter.  I take supplements, and I guess that helps, but I also use a SAD lamp that beams bright light into my brain, and hopefully wakes it up.  I’ve been feeling rather down the last few days, and hubby reminded me that I should be using my lamp…which I’d forgotten about.

So, here I sit, with these mini blue lightbulbs sending me energy.  I hope.  I still haven’t done any baking, and there are goodies I want to make to tuck in with gifts.  Certain people expect their little something, and I’m not one to disappoint.  But I haven’t been in the mood to do anything.  I know…..it’s SAD.  I can say, from past experience, that the light really does help.  Wish I’d remembered it sooner.

MEANDERINGS

We are still enjoying perfect December weather.  Cold nights, cool sunny days.  Would like to have some snow, but be careful what you wish for, eh?  It always feels more like Christmas when there’s some white around.

Tomorrow is the 12th, and I am finally of the realization that I need to get off my duff and get some baking and candy making done.  I have all the ingredients stocked, so I am my only roadblock to creative bliss.  I DO have all the gifts purchased AND wrapped…well, all but 6 of them, but that’s nothing.  I do have to make two batches of those durn crescent rolls that no one in this family seems to want to let go of.  C’mon, you guys!  They are little mounds of unwanted/unneeded calories….like we don’t get enough of those during the holidays.  And it is an all-day job to make two batches.  One batch is no longer enough for this ever-growing, roll-living family of mine.  Ever-growing in more ways than one, if you get my drift.  🙂  

Had a wonderful advent service at church this morning.  Even the gospel message was shared, so now I have to bite my tongue when it comes to complaining about that.  Next Sunday the kiddos will be presenting a Christmas pageant, and that’s always lots of fun.  I remember my participation in those when I was a child….the darkened sanctuary filled with doting relatives, the candlelight and spotlights, memorizing lines and the costumes we got to wear.  My two cousins and I sang “O Holy Night” one year…that was kinda scary, but we survived.  There was cocoa and cookies after the production, and we all went home with net stockings filled with hard candies, an orange, and nuts.   Wonderful memories.

Hubby and I celebrated an anniversary this past Friday.  Twenty-two years of wedded bliss!  We went out to the beach for dinner, and enjoyed the ride very much.  A huge full moon was lighting the way…very nice.  I guess there was a lunar eclipse that next morning, but we had cloud cover and didn’t get to see it. 

Have you seen the ads for the Dragon voice activation software…where you can talk and your computer types?  I am thinking I need to get me some of that!  However, I understand it is made for Windows 7 and I don’t have that yet.  So, with the next computer, I am getting that program.  Won’t it be fun to just sit and talk these posts….or letters…or whatever?  A friend who works in a doctor’s office says the doctors use it, and some hate it and some love it.  Their main complaint is that it doesn’t correctly spell or interpret all that medical terminology correctly.  I can understand that.  But for someone like me….it sounds like a really fun tool.

 

It’s been almost a year since we left the church we’d been attending for the last 13 years.  You would think that it would be easy to walk out of one church and immediately find another one to call home, but that has not been the case.  We have currently “tried out” four churches, plus attended a couple others just one time.  Either I am too picky, or there really is something seriously lacking in the churches we’ve been. 

Church number one had a lot of good qualities.  The message was good, the gospel was explained, the music was singable.  But after 6 weeks, no one had really made an effort to engage us in conversation or acknowledge that we were even there.  It wasn’t a huge church, so that wasn’t the problem.  Everyone just seemed wrapped up in themselves and not interested in a newcomer.  When you are coming from an extremely friendly and outgoing church, this seemed like a major drawback.  So we moved on to church number two.

Church number two was a large congregation, had the most beautiful worship service before the sermon began, and there were people there that we knew, who were very welcoming.  The pastor and I got into a lively discussion on the church’s position on Israel (I am pro-Israel), and I decided I liked the man and maybe we could call this church home.  But week after week his sermons were so empty….the Bible was never opened, scriptures were never mentioned, there was no preaching of the gospel, the need for salvation, just happy little stories about this and that that were supposed to brighten our day and encourage us in our walk.  Fluff.  Mindless fluff. 

Church number three was of the same denomination that we left (the previous two weren’t).  It was shocking the first morning to walk in, find no one there, and that the 10:45 start time apparently meant 11:00 to those in the know….for by then 12 people had wandered in, and the service began.  Twelve people…and 6 of them were from the church we left…others looking for a new church home.  Believe it or not, we stuck it out there for a couple of months.  In spite of lack-luster preaching.  In spite of music that was led by the pastor’s wife, chosen by the pastor’s wife, and only known by the pastor’s wife.  She would pick the most obscure choruses and praise songs that no one had ever heard.  When asked why, she said she liked it.  Never mind that the 12 people in the congregation were aged 55 and up…except for one couple….and these older people were begging for some of the older hymns so that they could worship in song too.  She’d smile but wouldn’t agree to any changes.  After one particularly boring sermon, we decided to keep looking, and left. 

Church number four was extolled by several friends of ours who go there, and we’d visited from time to time in the past, so we’re giving it a go.  It’s a good-sized church, two morning worship services, lots of teenagers and kids, and some really good preaching.  What I’m hearing IS good….it’s what I’m NOT hearing that has me upset this week.  Because it just dawned on me that it was missing.  The salvation message.  When you’re saved already, I guess you don’t need it….but if you’re not….you don’t KNOW you need it, and if you’re not hearing it, how CAN you know?  In all the time we’ve been there, NOT ONCE has the pastor mentioned the need to confess that one is a sinner and is in need of the saving grace of Christ.  That’s what the gospel is about!  That’s why there are churches….no???  I called my dear friend Nancy (hi, Nancy!) who goes there, and told her my concerns.  She said she couldn’t recall a time when pastor presented it either….and she’s been going there almost 3 years.  THAT IS NOT RIGHT!!!  That is SO not right. 

I don’t know what we’re going to do now.  I intend to talk to the pastor about it….ask why he doesn’t present the gospel.  I can’t imagine what he’ll say….but I’m thinking the answer is not going to be satisfactory to me.  How can you defend NOT teaching salvation??  Is he just blind to the fact that he’s been neglecting this most important area of the Christian faith?

I tell my husband we need to find another church.  He just looks at me with these eyes that say, again?  Where?  And that’s a good question.  Where.  We don’t live in an area where there is a church on every corner.  Still, there are others out there that we can try.  There is a local church that meets on Saturday nights that is the same denomination as church number one.  Maybe the people there are friendlier….and maybe we could get used to going Saturday nights instead of Sunday mornings.   OR….there is a wonderful church (so everyone says), in the next town over, and we could give it a try.    A very dear friend of mine goes there, and I value and trust her opinion, and she says we would be very happy there.  It will mean a longer drive, but maybe that’s what it is going to take. 

I am being prayerful about it.  I would have thought by now that the Lord would have plopped us down in the place He wants us, for it’s not like we aren’t trying!  I know the right church is out there, and eventually we’ll find it.  In the Lord’s time.

TREE!

The tree is in and decorated.  I cheated this year.  I did not drag out every box of ornaments and put them on the tree.  It was first come, first serve.  When I thought it looked okay, I got out the box of artificial holly sprigs and filled in the empty spots.  Done. 

It was a chore.  I guess it’s an age thing, but I no longer have the patience…or the stamina….to spend hours decorating a tree.  And now that it’s done, I have no energy left to do anything else.  I guess I am getting old.