Thursday, December 27, 2012

USING LEFTOVER TURKEY by Brenda Riden


Did you have turkey for Christmas and now have a ton of it left over? Here is a recipe for re-purposing that meat into a new dish. Shhh....don't tell your family they're eating left-overs!

Jeannie’s Chicken Pot Pie 

4-6 chicken breasts, cooked (reserve 1 cup of broth)(or use 2-3 cups left-over chicken or turkey)
1 stick butter
1 package frozen mixed veggies or 1 can Veg-All
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of mushroom soup (or you may use 2 cans of cream of chicken soup, omitting the mushroom soup)
1 can (10 3/4 oz) cream of chicken soup

1 cup sour cream
1 cup chicken broth (reserved from cooking chicken) to make it thicker, use just a little less 

1 cup or more of Bisquick or SR flour, I really prefer the packets of buttery biscuit mix 
1 cup of milk (adjust milk if using the packet mixes)

Directions: 
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Chop cooked chicken breasts. 
Melt 1 stick of butter in oven in 9x13 pan. When melted, remove from oven and place chopped chicken breasts evenly over melted butter.
Steam veggies in microwave, or use 1 can of veg-all. Place on top of chopped chicken layer.
Mix together soups, sour cream and 1 cup of chicken broth. Spread over veggie layer.
I then cut a little butter sometimes into the Bisquick or SR flour and then mix in milk. Stir.
I pour this flour, milk mixture over the soup layer; I do not spread it, just let it spread as it bakes. 
Bake until golden brown (Usually takes most ovens 45-60 minutes). 

Enjoy!


Brenda Riden
Pampered Chef Consultant
www.pamperedchef.biz/brendariden









Wednesday, December 26, 2012

SILENT HEART by Tony Manley


Silent heart, holy heart
All is calm, all is bright
Ruled by Comforter, Father, and Son
Holy thoughts so clean and so pure
Christ is Lord of this heart,
Christ is Lord of this heart.

Father, as a new day begins, may the truth of a holy heart ruled by the Trinity be evident to family, friends, and others. 





Monday, December 24, 2012

A CHRISTMAS VERSION OF 1st CORINTHIANS 13


If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator. 

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not demonstrate kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing. 

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband. 

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't. 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust, but giving the gift of love will endure. 

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."  

(Author unknown)



Friday, December 21, 2012

SHEPHERDS by Tony Manley


“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”  Luke 2:8

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”  Ps. 23:1-3

Shepherds are wonderful people. Caring, providing, protecting, and leading their flocks. Unassuming people and sometimes in some circles, I am told, unaccepted people. This description of shepherds sounds very familiar to me about my Shepherd. 

Often in the Christmas account in Luke 2, the shepherds are heralded as the lowliest and poorest audience that received the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Rightly so, we embrace the truth Jesus came for all – the lowliest and poorest as well as the “highliest” and the richest. Jesus is for all. But today, I thought about the character of shepherds and the character of my Shepherd. Both care for their flocks – sheep.  Being assigned to watch over a group of unintelligent and smelly beings is not what I dream of doing. Yet, as they say, somebody has to do it! A good shepherd makes sure his unintelligent and smelly sheep are not in want. The role of the unintelligent and smelly one is to just trust and obey. Follow well, listen well, and rest well. Ah, the life of a sheep!
  
Sound familiar? I am that sheep. I have that Shepherd. The One who makes my life to “not be in want.” The One who gives me rest in green pastures. The One who takes me to quiet waters - peaceful places of refreshment. The One who rebuilds my heart when it is scratched and broken. The One who says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father - and I lay down my life for the sheep.”  John 10:14-15

Everything in God’s Word has purpose, and because the Word is a living document, it speaks to my heart with purpose for the moment. This morning I am loving the detail about shepherds saying, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15

“The shepherds returned, (to their fields) glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20

In my heart, I wonder…did the shepherds know they had just been honored to be the first invites to see the Great Shepherd, the One who was the ultimate example of a Shepherd?  Did Mary and Joseph understand the purposeful heart of God to bring shepherds to the intimacy of the Chief Shepherd’s birth? 

Thank you, Jesus, for being the Shepherd of this sheep’s unintelligent and smelly heart! Thank you for coming to me and inviting me to see You, just as the shepherds were brought to You that night in Bethlehem. May I return daily to the life I live, glorifying and praising You for the things I have heard and seen.  Amen 




Thursday, December 20, 2012

PLEASE CAN I HELP? by Christie Smith


 Black Friday. Immediately we think of crazy shoppers at 4 a.m. who have scouted out the best deals anticipating being the first in line to grab their finds. But I've never once shopped the day after Thanksgiving. And I realized this year that...sadly...Black Friday for me meant something entirely different. It represented the person I was becoming as the Christmas decorations were making their way out of the attic. It's the mood I was setting as Christmas preparations were being made. I heard five eager voices exclaiming, "Oh! Christmas decorations! Can I help you decorate?" And all I could focus on were the five sets of hands heading for all my breakables! In my mind I knew that if everyone just got out of my way, I could have the entire house decorated in one afternoon. And those Christmas cookies I had to make? Well, if the kids would just run outside and play for a little while, I could have them baked and decorated perfectly in the time it would take them to absolutely destroy my kitchen! Yes...I was definitely the personification of what was quickly becoming "Black Christmas." 

Then all of a sudden, this thought hit me like a ton of bricks: my Heavenly Father could do a lot of things without my help, and I'm positive they would turn out 100% better without me there to continually mess them up. It seems like anytime He allows me to "help" Him accomplish anything, I always let Him down. I'm constantly failing and having to go back to square one and start again. But God always seems patient and full of grace with me. He always wants me to try again. Why? He could do whatever He wanted to do with a snap of His finger. He could end natural disasters and stop crime and erase hunger if He chose to...so why doesn't He? He wants His children to be a part of accomplishing His plans! As easy as it would be to do something and say, "Look, I'm God and I can do whatever I want"...how much greater it is for Him to be able to say, "Yes, I'm God. If you want to know who I am and what I can do, just look at my children." 

I realized that if I could make my children be perfect little robots who never messed up, who always said exactly what they were supposed to say and do what they were supposed to do... I imagine it would be pretty boring around our house. And it would definitely not be genuine. The same way that I want "relationships" with my kids, not just a script acted out by some perfect actors...God wants the same with us. He doesn't want perfect children who don't need Him. He wants honest, real, imperfect kids who are continually learning and growing. In the same way that my 8-yr old daughter can think I hung the moon because I know how to tie a scarf and my 3 yr-old son thinks I'm magic because I can blow a bubble with my gum...how much more does our Heavenly Father's heart overflow with love for us when we discover something new and wonderful because of Him??? 

The same way that my life is enriched when I allow my children to help me decorate the Christmas tree, my Savior's heart is longing for the maturing of our relationship that comes when He allows me to be a part of His plans. He wants me to be a part of His life no matter how bad I mess things up. So this year, I'm going to try to focus less on how beautiful those sugar cookies turn out and focus more on the intentions of the little hearts that made them!





Wednesday, December 19, 2012

CHRISTMAS IDEAS

Here are some Christmas treats and decorations that don't even need directions...at least most don't. 


Christmas Tree Brownies


Gumdrop Wreath



Footprint Reindeer




Jesus Candy Cane



Frosty the Cheeseball

Frosty the Cheeseball
16 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
10 raisins for eyes, mouth, and buttons
1 piece of carrot for the nose
4 crackers for the hat (we used Ritz and Dare water crackers)
1 thyme sprig for the hat (optional)
Strips of carrot for the scarf
2 broken pretzels for the arms
1 (1/2-inch) piece of a canned baby corn for the pipe
Toothpick for the pipe

Instructions
1. In a large bowl, let the cream cheese soften at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Stir in the garlic salt and the onion powder, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.

2. Make the snowman by rolling two thirds of the cheese into a ball for his body and the other third into a ball for his head. Stack the balls, then add the facial features, clothing, arms, and pipe as shown. Serve with crackers or mini bagels.

For more great ideas, click here



Snowman Pizza (for recipe and directions click here)



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S by Paula Roten

I was listening to the Sounds of the Season music station on television one day when I heard a Christmas song that carried me back to childhood. I was taken to church from as young as I can remember. I was in the nursery and Sunbeams and Primaries and whatever came after that. I can remember Mrs. Castle teaching us Primaries. She could get a group of children to sing louder (and on pitch) than anybody I've ever known. I remember two songs from those Primary years. One was "God's Beautiful World." 


God's beautiful world.
God's beautiful world.
He made it for you.
He made it for me.
I love God's beautiful world.

The other song I remember is a Christmas song, the one I heard the other day. It's name is "C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S."

When I was but a youngster,
Christmas meant one thing.
That I'd be getting lots of toys that day. 
I learned a whole lot different
When Mother sat me down
And taught me to spell Christmas this way:

C is for the Christ Child, born upon that day.
H for herald angels in the night.
R's for our Redeemer.
I means Israel.
S is for the star that shone so bright.
T is for three wise men, they who traveled far.
M is for the manger where He lay.
A's for all He stands for.
S means shepherds came.
And that's why there's a Christmas day.
(Music by Eddy Arnold and lyrics by Jenny Lou Carson, 1949)


Can you believe I can remember a song I was taught probably 50 years ago? More importantly, I remember that someone loved us kids so much that she taught us the REAL meaning of Christmas. She taught us year after year after year. I've never forgotten her and the influence she had on my life.

Thank you, God, for all teachers everywhere who introduce children to Christ and shape lives for eternity.

(If you'd like to hear this song, click here to hear Perry Como sing it.) 



Monday, December 17, 2012

WORD FOR THE WEEK

Do not be afraid. 
I bring you good news of great joy 
that will be for all people. 
Luke 2:10

Think of the best news you've ever heard...or want to hear. 

Now think of the feeling you have...the grin you can't wipe from your face...the joy that won't go away.

That's the good news of Jesus. And He's not just for you...He's for everybody! 

Let's first thank God for this Good News. 

Now, let's not keep Him to ourselves. Let's tell others!





Saturday, December 15, 2012

JANUARY BIBLE STUDIES

A New Year is almost here.

Do you make New Year's resolutions?

What about deciding to make this a year that you get into God's Word and find out what He thinks about you...what He has to say to you...what He expects from you...what you REALLY believe...how to live out what you believe...how to have real joy?





Choose one of the following Bible Studies beginning January 14 and 15:


Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (6 wks)

  • Monday nights at 6:30 - 8:00 
  • Tuesday mornings at 9:30 - 11:15


Precept’s Ezekiel Part 2 (8 wks)

  • Tuesday mornings 9:00-11:15


Registered childcare on Tuesday mornings only.

Sign-up sheets are located on the ministry table, or you may call Lisa at 662 349 2914.




Friday, December 14, 2012

CHRISTMAS CRAFTS WITH CHILDREN by Fay Holley


Here is an inexpensive way to let kids use their imaginations, enjoy craft making, and show gratitude all at the same time!

Items Needed:

Christmas cards received last year (tear the front picture off to use)
Scissors 
Glue
Markers
Construction paper (any color)
Ribbon (optional)
Hole punch (optional)
Stapler (optional)

Let the kids cut and paste to make their own cards. (Let them use their imaginations)

Encourage them to write gratitude messages to Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, their Sunday School teacher, their school teacher, and any others they can think of.  


Thursday, December 13, 2012

TREAT SWAP IN PHOTOS

Writing cards to shut-ins



The treats and their unique packaging



Groups performing Christmas songs


Carefully choosing which treats to take home



Savories and sweets to munch on

Conversation and laughter

TREAT SWAP...TONIGHT!

Tonight is our Refresh Treat Swap, our "easier" version of a cookie swap. The idea? You take 6 dozen treats and go home with 6 dozen different treats to share with your family during the holidays...providing you don't eat them all on your way home! Here are the nitty gritty details:


  • Bring 6 dozen cookies or candy or treats to share and you will take home 6 dozen
  • Make homemade items - please no store bought items
  • Place 3 items in a cute bag (you will have a total of 24 bags)
  • Bring 24 copies of your recipe

Other activities planned for the night:
  • We will address Christmas cards for our shut-ins
  • Christmas Caroling
  • Lots of fun and fellowship

3 door prizes will be given:
  • Most creative packaging of goodies
  • 2 random prizes

Ladies, if you are 50 years old or younger, please bring a savory dish to share. If you are 51 years or older, please bring something sweet to share. We will also have a coffee and hot chocolate bar.



WHAT Cs SEIZE YOU? by Tony Manley


The countdown is on!  The intensity and activity are ramping up and I felt very prepared…or so I thought!

I intentionally said in my heart “Jesus is the reason for my season” lots of times, scaled back on decorations, didn’t need a new something to make me feel special, and even stomped my foot inside my heart that this year it would be different. I am different!

So, last Saturday a week ago, I get a phone call and the sweet gifted person on the line begins to tell me about her decorated house – the ribbons, the fresh greens, the table, the I don’t know what else she said because I went into “uh, oh” land, I have not done enough decorating! Then, I get the call about a new place to shop with all the cutest clothes and accessories. Again “uh, oh” I am not dressed enough or my gifts I am planning are not enough.
As we – the Holy Spirit, David, and I - left to go to a wonderful evening about Christ and Christmas, I began to be seized  by:  COMPARING, COVETOUSNESS, and COMPLAINING. 

When one (me) tends to battle the gift of fear, the wrong things can “seize” the heart. I began to take a walk down the thorny path of “I’m not talented enough, not dressed enough, and I need more to be more!” My constant counselor (I don’t need to pay a counselor, when I have an indwelling One who knows the truth about me all the time) grabbed my heart and said, “Let’s take a different path.”

He proceeded to speak truth to me - to jolt me back to peace and gratitude. First, He reminded me about when Jesus told Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, WHAT IS THAT TO YOU?” (John 21:22).  Basically, Tony, you look to Me and walk with Me – I have the right to do differently with each person’s life. It is not profitable to COMPARE, so be CONTENT with what and how I work in your life.

Secondly, my comforter reminded me “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1: 3)  I do not need a thing other than to be like Jesus.  To get caught up with more in my appearance -whether, home, clothes, gifts, physical being- is to live with a COVETING heart. I need to have a COMPASSIONATE and CARING heart. An others heart. 

I found the “c” of COMPLAINING comes when I am covetous or comparing.  And the “C’” of Christ – COMPASSION, CONTENTMENT, CARING come when I am decreased and He is increased.

I almost gave in that night to the seizing of the wrong “C’s,” but thankfully, 1 John 4:4 states that “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  This is truth!
  
The bottom line is, I will not give in or give up on clinging to “Christ” – the “C” of Christmas!  May your heart be victorious in this season!




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

MAMA's AMBROSIA CAKE by Linda Leeson


The smell of Ambrosia Cake was the beginning of Christmas for me growing up. It's a wonderful combination of spices, chocolate, and fruit.  Lots of cutting and chopping, but well worth it.

Mama's Ambrosia Cake

1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
1 cup buttermilk
3 eggs, beaten well
3 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
2 T cocoa dissolved in 1/2 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 apple chopped very fine

Combine all and mix to make a 3 layer cake. Cook 25 or 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Filling:
Prepare chopped and grated fruit as follows:
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup oranges
1 coconut grated
1 small can crushed pineapple, well drained

Cook to soft ball stage:
3 cups sugar
2 cups milk
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch soda
1/4 cup butter

Pour over fruit and mix well as it slightly gets firm enough to spread on cake.  Juicy but not runny is good...

Please remember that this recipe is from the 1800s in the days of no mixers, food processors or already prepared anything.  I would love any adaptations you might have to share. 

Enjoy and Merry Christmas love to all.




Tuesday, December 11, 2012

WHERE IT ALL BEGINS by Christie Smith


 It's that time of year again. Time to bust out the collection of Christmas CD's. There are some who start listening to their Christmas music well before the Thanksgiving turkey's even cold. There are some who change the channel when a carol comes on the radio. I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't mind listening to a few merry tunes here and there, especially as the big day nears. But, whether you are die-hard Christmas music fans or not, the meanings of the songs can't be overlooked. We've heard them so many times that our lips mouth the words without a second thought from our mind. 

"Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, 
the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head"

As we stand in the pew and mouth the words to this song, does the full gravity of what happened even enter our minds? God, the Creator of the world, was physically born into our world. Jesus, who is God, left Heaven and became sin. He left Heaven and chose to not only die for our sins, but also chose to experience pain, hunger, loneliness, sadness, exhaustion...He wanted a relationship with us so badly that He chose to come to this world that needed Him, but didn't want Him. And to fully tell His story of Love, He was born into poverty...literally without a place of His own to put His newborn head. He became human so that we could become righteousness through His pain and suffering. 

The greatest love story ever told begins here in the manger.

The reason we are able to continue living with joy even after losing a child or husband or parent...is because our Lord was born in that manger!

The reason we can sit in a hospital room holding the hand of a loved one and have hope that even if they don't get better, we can trust that we will see them again someday... is because of that baby in the manger!

The reason we continue washing and cleaning and cooking while still being able to love these selfish, dirty, little people we call children...is because our Lord was born in a manger and allowed us to be His love, His patience, His forgiveness.

Our salvation begins here in the manger.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

WORD FOR THE WEEK

And while they were there, 
the time came for her to give birth. 
And she gave birth to her firstborn son 
and wrapped him in swaddling cloths 
and laid him in a manger, 
because there was no place for them in the inn. 
Luke 2:6-7

God's will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The "No Vacancy" signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. "For your sake he became poor" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

(The above is an exerpt by John Piper from the December 6 entry in Good News of Great Joy. To download the free e-book, go here.) 



Friday, December 7, 2012

CHRISTMAS TREND ALERT by Stacy McSpadden


Glitz and Glam.  The more gold and sequins, the better for Christmas decorating this season. When we went to Atlanta last January, bling was the thing. Everything was sequined or flocked or glitzy gold. I love it because it's sometimes hard to be "dressy" with the Christmas decor, but these things allow fun with that flair for the elegant. It's really an oxymoron, because while simplicity is all the rage for everyday furnishings, the "more the merrier" is in when it comes to the holidays. I took some pics of the season's hottest Christmas accessories. What I love about all of these is that you can work them into your traditional decorations.




Pardon my amateur photography, but this is a great example of mixing those crystal candlesticks that you got ages ago for a wedding gift and mix it with two simple glitter reindeer for a festive setting on your favorite console or chest.



These are two of my favorites. The sequined reindeer. We placed these on a simple mirrored tray. Great for an entry hall piece. It would also look great with some fresh magnolia leaves or holly around the tray.



Angels are all the rage this season. I love them because they remind me of some of my favorite Christmas carols. These are great for a mantle or sideboard. Here we placed them with a nice Christmas garland and fun ribbon.



Again, here are the angels used on the mantle. Instead of a fussy garland and a lot of stuff going on the mantle, we used two simple Christmas arrangements and surrounded a clock you might use everyday. Fun, yet simple look for the mantle.

As you can see, most of these ideas use the accessories you already have all the while sprucing up a little Christmas cheer with new decorations. And I always love the idea of fresh berries, pine, and leaves mixed with everything.






Thursday, December 6, 2012

WHAT I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS by Tony Manley


I admit it. I am a Thanksgiving person. One hundred percent Thanksgiving. Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. When November comes, I would like to press the pause button and just savor the smells, foods, colors, and the expectations of the day! What does this descriptive explanation have to do with the Christmas season? Nothing, other than I am setting the stage for you about my heart toward Christmas.

I like the look of Christmas - the decorations, the baking aisle at Kroger, the children’s sweaters and dresses. I like the foods - chocolate and peanut butter balls, need I say more! I like the shows - A Charlie Brown Christmas can’t be beat! The Grinch is a close second, and then of course Holiday Inn!  I love the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – the story of the Herdmans. I challenge you to get a copy and fall in love with the heart changes of these misfit and maladjusted children as they get involved with the local church’s Christmas pageant! Priceless!!

With all these likes, my greatest desire is to live/experience Christmas with a “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” heart. That is the truth. Keeping my heart in the place of the preeminence of Christ, honoring Him, and truly wanting to be light and salt during this season, that is what I want…but this is where I struggle. I know intellectually that the Holy Spirit knows my thoughts and my ways at all times. He is my joy and I appreciate Him teaching and confronting me when I am not living out the truth of Christ’s Lordship in the spirit of giving, serving, receiving, and preparing. In other words – when I am living in the flesh.

So, what do I want for Christmas?

I want to avoid the distractions of the world in its sensory overload state during this time of year.

I want to be filled with joy, peace, and freedom as I shop, cook, clean, host, visit, and worship. 

I want to be light in the midst of darkness. 

I want to be peace in the middle of overwhelmed.

I want to be joy to someone’s heart.

I want my children and grandchildren to establish Christ honoring traditions early in their homes.

I want kindness and gentleness to permeate my home as I enjoy others’ gift of time to me. 

As I started writing, I actually thought I really don’t know many things I want for Christmas, but once I started writing, I realize I do want many gifts! Gifts that come from the heart and gifts that are of the heart! Happy Birthday, Jesus. 

“Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift.”  2 Corinthians 9:15





Wednesday, December 5, 2012

CHRISTMAS TREE CONTEST

Wanna join in on a little Christmas fun? 

We're having a Christmas Tree contest. 

Put up your Christmas tree sometime this week and decorate it any way you like. 




Do you like nothing but poinsettias and ribbon? Great! 

What about an old-fashioned tree strung with cranberries and popcorn and hand-made ornaments? Perfect!

Do you usually put up a Jesus tree using symbolic ornaments? Fabulous!

Is your tree a mixture of old and new? Christian and Santa ornaments? Bought and hand-made? Fine!

It doesn't matter. Any kind of decorated tree is welcome!




Just take a picture of your Christmas tree in all its splendor and post the picture on the Refresh Facebook page beginning Monday, Dec. 10. Not before! Monday, Dec. 10. (And, please, make sure this tree is actually standing in your home and is not in a decorator store somewhere :)

Submissions may be made Monday - Friday morning, Dec. 10-14. A panel of impartial judges will decide whose tree will win a prize. This lovely glass tray will be awarded and announced on Facebook Friday sometime after noon. You may pick it up at church on Sunday morning, Dec. 16, from Stacy McSpadden.



Rules (just for clarity's sake):
1. Decorate the Christmas tree in your home and take a picture of it.
2. Submit the photo beginning Monday Dec. 10 - Friday Dec. 14 noon.
3. Submit the photo only on our Refresh Facebook page.
4. Only one submission per person accepted.





CHRISTMAS WREATH RECIPES by Brenda Riden


CHRISTMAS WREATH CAKE

3      Pkgs. Crescent rolls
1 pkg. (8 oz) cream cheese
1/3 c. Powdered sugar
½ t. vanilla
Pie filling: your choice  (strawberry or cherry)


Place crescent rolls on a pizza stone in circle with points to the outside so that it resembles a starburst. Roll seams together with dough roller, leaving points separated.

Mix together cream cheese, vanilla, and sugar. Place in circle on dough. Spread pie filling over cream cheese mixture. Fold points over and tuck to the inside.

Decorate with colored sugar and bake at 375F for 20-25 min.


CINNAMON BRAIDED WREATH

2 (9.5 oz) pkg. refrigerated cinnamon rolls (store brand)
Colored sugar

Unroll each cinnamon roll to make 16 individual strips.  Start braiding with 3 strips adding more roll pieces when needed to make one long braid.  When you finish braiding all the cinnamon rolls, form a circle with braid.  Decorate w/ colored sugar it you want and bake at 375F for about 15 min. (or you can add the decorator frosting when it comes out of the oven and then decorate with colored sugar)


CHICKEN CHRISTMAS WREATH

½ cup red bell pepper
½ cup fresh broccoli
¼ cup water chestnuts drained
2 TBS onion
1 - 10 or 12 oz can of chicken, drained
2/3 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups colby jack cheese
2 cans crescent rolls

 *Chop pepper, broccoli, water chestnuts, onion, and mix together in 2 qt batter bowl; combine with all other ingredients except crescent rolls.

*Place crescent rolls on a pizza stone in circle with points to the outside so that it resembles a starburst. Roll seams together with dough roller, leaving points separated.

 *Place chicken mixture in circle on dough. Fold points over and tuck to the inside. 

 *Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until deep brown.


Brenda Riden
Pampered Chef Consultant
www.pamperedchef.biz/brendariden


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A MOTHER'S MUSINGS AT CHRISTMAS by Kim Wright


 “Mommy! Mommy! Look what I made!” Eyes glowed with excitement as chubby hands thrust the newest addition to our Christmas ornament collection into mine.

“Oh, that’s just beautiful!” I would exclaim, while silently cursing the Sunday School teacher who obviously was looking for the quickest, easiest Christmas craft possible and had unlimited paper, yarn, and glitter at her disposal!

“Can I hang it on the tree?”

“Why, of course!  Let’s see…oh, here’s a big bare spot right in the back that needs an ornament!  Let’s hang it there!”

I blinked…

  Those little hands have grown into young adult hands. The kids I used to have to lift up to hang ornaments are now taller than me. That rumpled, glittery handprint once relegated to the back of the tree is now one of my favorites.

My heart is full as I anticipate this holiday season. Much has changed since those early years…I’ve changed. I find myself reflective this Christmas. My kids are quickly becoming adults. Did I do it right? Have I trained them well? Was the Jesus so prominently displayed in the nativity scene as prominently displayed in my life?

The jury is still out. I’m still in the trenches; but lessons have been learned and are being learned that I’d love to share with a young woman whose life lies before her…whose marriage is new…whose children are small…and who is just getting ready to hang that rumpled, glittery homemade ornament on the back of her tree…

Savor
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  Eccl. 3:11

I first want to encourage you to savor the season of life you are in.
  
If it is the season that brings with it a tree whose bottom branches sag with the weight of 4 ornaments per branch…savor it!
  
Does your decor look more like Charlie Brown’s than Martha Stewart’s? Savor it! 

Has your 3 year old knocked over your Christmas tree (TWICE!) and broken what few beautiful ornaments you owned? Savor it, because you will laugh about it when he’s 16, and the retelling of the catastrophe each Christmas will become a tradition in itself. (Trust me on this one, I speak from experience!)

Are you single, but wishing you had more exciting plans for Christmas than having to go to your parents’ and grandparents’ houses…again? Savor it. Someday, you’ll miss the smells, hugs, love and laughter. You’ll miss your grandmother’s cooking, your dad’s hearty laugh, and even the awkward gifts from those who love you, but don’t quite share the same taste. Savor it, because you never know when your loved ones will be gone. 

Are your children grown? Savor it! Have a beautiful tree and an elegant table that rivals the ones in Southern Living! (…unless, of course, you have grandchildren coming, and then savor that instead!)

 The point is, don’t wish away the moments that God has given you and the people He’s surrounded you with in this season of your life. Find the beauty in where he has you right now.

Simplify
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  I Tim. 6:6

If Christmas to you is synonymous with stress…perhaps it’s time to simplify. Is your calendar packed? Is your shopping list larger than your budget? Do you feel a headache coming on at the thought of all you have to do? Simplify!

I give you permission to say “No” to some things. This may come as a shock, but you do not have to attend every function, event, party, and concert that you are invited to! 

When my kids were in elementary school, the coaches would inevitably decide to sign our team up for a tournament during Christmas break. Parents would grumble amongst themselves and long for simple times when one could just spend Christmas break with family, watching movies, baking cookies, and hanging out. Some would lament that they would have to cut short time with their out of town families in order to get back for the extra games. Oh, and the tournament fees didn’t exactly come at an opportune time for most people’s budgets either!
  
So what did we do? We politely said, “I’m sorry, but we won’t be able to participate.”  

“What!? Can you DO that?” some parents would whisper to me. 

 Yes! You can! (We did…and it was wonderful!) You may not be able to say no to everything, but take a realistic look at your schedule, and make sure you are making time for the truly important things.

Not only have we tried to simplify our schedule, but we’re constantly striving to simplify our gift giving.
  
There was a time when I thought more was better under the tree. It wore me out trying to shop for and wrap all those gifts, and honestly, we began to notice that most of the items lost their luster after just a few days. More times than not, the gifts we exchanged contributed more to the clutter of our home than to any lasting enjoyment. 

While we still lay out “surprises” on Christmas morning, we have reduced the number of wrapped gifts under the tree down to three. We encourage our kids to give us a list of their Christmas wishes, but they understand that it’s a list of suggestions…they may not (and probably won’t!) receive every item on their list.
  
We have had Christmas seasons where our finances were so tight that we had to shop at garage sales and Goodwill for the kids’ presents. Other times, God has provided enough for us to splurge and buy things that the kids had only dreamed of getting! However, looking back over our Christmases together, I’ve observed that they actually loved the garage sale items as much as the dream vacation! Sometimes, I think we as parents put too much pressure on ourselves to give the “name brand” items or the “hot toy of the season” so that our kids will be popular or fit in.  Does your 3rd grader really need an iPhone…or even a phone at all? Evaluate your gift giving, and never underestimate the value of saying “no” to your kids’ wants at times. The result of this is that I am blessed with content kids. They exhibit a real heart of gratitude and are becoming sensitive to how much things cost and the value of money. Contentment is a learned trait. When we give our kids their every wish, desire and demand…they will never receive the far greater gift:  Contentment.

Selflessness
“…It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35

So often, the tendency at Christmas is to focus on “me.” 
What do I want? What am I getting? 

 One thing we began many years ago to help promote the idea of “giving,” rather than “getting,” was to allow our kids to pick out, purchase, and wrap gifts for their brothers and sisters. When my kids were young, we’d give them each enough money to pick out and purchase a gift from the dollar store for each sibling. They could hardly wait to get home, wrap their gifts, and put them under the tree. The sweetest part of Christmas was watching them give out their handpicked, hand wrapped gifts to each of their brothers and sisters. This was a favorite holiday tradition for many years.

As the age span and number of siblings increased, we have graduated from the dollar store days and transitioned to drawing names and nicer gifts. Each kid chooses one sibling’s name out of a hat for which they will pick out a gift. The older kids use their own money and shop on their own. We still help out the younger ones. The fun part is that the kids try their best to keep the name they have drawn a secret until the gifts and the identity of each giver is revealed on Christmas night. This has become one of the most anticipated parts of Christmas for my kids.  From the biggest kids to the smallest, the question I hear most often as Christmas approaches is,

 “When are we going to draw names?” 

I’m so glad that my children love to give to each other! I’m so thankful that in the midst of all the “getting,” they’ve caught a glimpse of how much fun it is to give!

Sentimentality
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

I love to find ways to impress upon my kids the joy found in following the Lord. So often, the idea is that once you become a Christian, the fun is immediately sucked out of your life. What a misconception! God desires for us to rejoice and be glad! My grandparents and parents exhibited strong moral convictions and standards; they followed the Lord without wavering in good times and bad…but they made following Him appealing! They made our home a happy place to be…filled with laughter, fun, and wonderful memories.

My husband and I have attempted to make Christmas fun for our kids, as well. Some of our Christmas traditions have deep meaning spiritually…some are just good, clean fun…but my hope is that the total package will reflect to my kids the deep abiding joy found in a life committed to the Lord.

One thing that continually amazes us is how much our older kids cherish our Christmas traditions. From Dad putting the topper on the tree or going as a family to look at Christmas lights to searching the house for Santa’s last gift in the scavenger hunt “he” set up…traditions have helped make the Christmas season set apart as something special.

Many times, we have been on the verge of abolishing a “tradition,” simply because we thought it was probably too juvenile for our older kids…yet it is the older kids themselves who plead with us year after year to continue! I think these traditions have become a common thread that has served to bind our family closer together throughout the years. It is what makes our family experience unique and our home a pleasant place that exudes the joy of the Lord. So, whether sentimental, silly, or sacred…establish family traditions, maintain them, and constantly look for ways to start new ones! Give your children the “delightful inheritance” that comes from Jesus living in you!

Savior
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  
Luke 2:11

I have always tried to incorporate Christ into our Christmas celebration, but truly pulling it off can prove to be a challenge. We have read Luke, chapter 2; we have had birthday parties for Jesus; we’ve attended church plays and live nativities, and we’ve even performed in some of our own.

Perhaps the best tradition that we’ve established is a relatively new one. For many years now, we’ve had an advent calendar called “The Nativity Advent.” A felt manger scene adorns the top, and the bottom portion has numbered pockets which each contain a person, angel, star or animal connected to the story of Christ’s birth. Beginning on the first day of December, the children take turns daily adding characters to the manger scene, until adding the finishing touch of baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas Day.
  
Last year, we added something significant to our Advent. Every night, beginning December 1st, my husband would read a story from The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. This Bible storybook combined with our Nativity Advent Calendar was one of the most meaningful traditions we’ve established in helping us focus on the true meaning of Christmas as a family.

Although this particular storybook is marketed for children, its message touched my husband and me as adults. It beautifully explains how every story in the Bible “whispers His name.” This was a tradition worth repeating. We plan to continue it throughout the years to come.

As much as I desire to make Jesus the center of our celebration and am committed to actively looking for ways to accomplish this in our family…I realize that the real task at hand is not letting the conversation end with the baby in a manger. The ultimate goal of Christmas should be to use this time of year as a springboard for communicating the message of the Gospel of Christ.

How I desire to impress on my kids, as the song by Avalon so eloquently expresses, that this Jesus we celebrate at Christmas is “…more than a story, more than words on a page of history. He’s the air that I breathe, the water I thirst for, and the ground beneath my feet.  He’s everything.  …everything to me!”

If my children are able to take hold of this Truth and personalize it as their own…it will be the greatest Christmas gift I could ever give them!

So, savor the season He’s placed you in.

Simplify by making sure you are doing what is truly important.

Teach your kids to be selfless, instead of selfish.

Make the Christmas season fun and your home a pleasant place by being sentimental about traditions.

Celebrate the Savior.

Oh…and whatever you do…don’t blink!