Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas, New Year's and All That

We've been on the go during our Christmas break and now here we are heading into a new year tomorrow! We had a wonderful time in Ohio with all our family and friends. Starting our week in Ohio, we found out that Stephen is allergic to cats! Walt and Ruthie have a new little kitten that was just too cute to leave alone and Stephen woke up the next morning with red and swollen eyes! For the rest of our visit, our wise little son kept his distance.

We really enjoyed our visit with my friend from, what is it, Katie? About 35 years?! (Ouch. That is hard to admit!) Katie has three of the cutest little boys in Ohio, and all of our kids had a blast together! It was great to send them off to play while Katie and I caught up in person, for a change, instead of communicating only over e-mail or Facebook or blog comments. What a blessing it was to be with her. I wish we lived closer.

We moved on to the Schley side of the family after a visit with Richard and Margie. We had our annual Schley family Christmas Dinner Contest. This year we did chili. We had nine entries and only three winners. That was hard to judge, but we loved the chili and we loved the fun and visiting!

Spending the rest of the week with my family was a blessing. Sometimes I just need that Schley fix and then I'm back on track again. It was nice to just sit and laugh with Liz and Laurel and Taylor about wee boxers, or was it Wii boxes, or was it Diet Dr. Pepper? I had fun shopping with Liz and Dianne and getting and giving those suggestions and comments that only sisters can give to each other. I enjoyed watching Mom and Dad interact with the kids and the kids sure enjoyed being at Grandpa's house where there are trucks. (I'm not sure where those trucks are, but Christopher always talks about Grandpa's house and trucks in the same sentences.)

Yes, Christmas this year was wonderful. It was not about gifts and glitter. It was not about commercialism or perfection. Sometimes it was about food. It had to be because we had Bocka's Buckey Bars, salmon (Timothy's favorite), the all-important Chex Party Mix, the handcrafted gingerbread houses and everything else that was available. I have to say that this was a wonderful Christmas because we were together because we were family, and we were celebrating the birth of Jesus. This is what made Christmas beautiful this year.

Now we're at the brink of a new year. We're going to brave the snow tonight and go to a family New Year's Eve party for a white elephant gift exchange. The boys are all excited to stay up late. I'm not as thrilled with that, I'm getting older, but I catch their excitement and then I'm ok about it again. What are you guys doing tonight to celebrate New Year's? How have the celebrations changed for you over the years? Who's going to bed early tonight?! (Lucky you!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel ...or Bowl

Today is the final day of The Cookie Kitchen's baking for this Christmas season. Whew! We thought we were done, but this morning I got a desperate call from a repeat customer who always places large orders. How could I say no??? After I hung up with her, I frantically called Connie and we both scrambled to count our remaining cookies (that we had already divided up between our families because we thought we were done with orders this year) in the freezer and were thrilled to discover that we had JUST ENOUGH to fill this customer's order!

Well, almost enough to fill her order. I just finished baking 81 more shortbread cutouts and I'm passing them on to Connie to finish decorating since we're leaving in the morning for Ohio! We have two or three leftovers of all the other cookies, but this customer wanted a special platter of the cutouts, soooo ..... that's how I spent my evening tonight after the boys were in bed.

The Cookie Kitchen is temporarily closed as we both celebrate Christmas with our families. Once again, we thank God for the customers that trusted us with their Christmas cookies this year. We're also thankful for the wise ones who came late last night to pick up their cookies before the blizzard hit, and we're thankful for the brave ones who ventured out today in the middle of it all to pick up the rest. Ok, so today's were all neighbors who just had to walk a few houses down, but hey! It was cold and blustery and snowy today!

Since we'll be spending Christmas with our family in Ohio, I don't know how much time I'll have to blog while we're there, so I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas as you celebrate JESUS!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cookie Party!

Today was the day of our annual Cookie Party, as the boys like to call it. A few friends and I get together each year to do a Cookie Exchange before Christmas. We have a great time! We gush over each other's creations. We sample the goodies. We tell funny stories. We enjoy our time together. Today was no different. Our group was smaller this year as several of the regulars weren't able to make it, but we still enjoyed our time and are thankful for the variety of cookies that we have to share.
This is just a smattering of the goodies that we were all able to walk away with today. And all I had to do was bake one type of cookie and package several dozen to share.
A beautiful day. A delicious morning. Sweet fellowship. What a perfect Cookie Party!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Programs

Sunday night was our Sunday School Christmas program at church. Boy, were those kids fantastic! This is a picture of the Tiny Tot Choir on Saturday at their practice. Zippy B. was practicing her solo. To the left of her, Stephen is practicing his stone face. To her right, Evan and Braden are more interested in my camera than Zippy's singing. On the far left we see Silas wondering if she'll do ok and Thaddeus, in the red shirt, seems to be singing his own song. Next to him, Max must have thought someone behind him was singing the solo. Theo, Silas' brother, is also wondering if Zippy will do ok. Or maybe he's just playing with his loose tooth. Who knows. As disorganized as this picture looks, the children did an absolutely marvelous job with their program. I wish that I could have had a video clip to post so that I could share Stephen's enthusiasm with you all. He bellowed from the bottom of his heart, and thankfully on key, for the entire program, drowning out most of the other kids! While part of me was praying that he would tone it down just a bit, I was also thrilled to see that he had no reservations while he was singing "Come and Praise the Lord Our King, Alleluia" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" and "O Come All Ye Faithful." What a moment as a mother to be watching him sing with his whole being!

The only glitch in the program was when Victoria and Ashley T. were playing their flute and violin duet and the breeze in the sanctuary blew their music right off the stand! Those troopers kept right on going even after several attempts by others to get that music back up there!

The boys' school program was last week. For some reason my camera wasn't working too well and this is the least blurry shot that I have. Timothy is the only one with no Santa hat on. He was so pleased with himself standing up there singing away! He kept looking out at us and smiling and giving us a wave every once in awhile.

Watching my kids in their Christmas programs made me think about all the programs I had been in as a child. I have such specific memories from a few of them that it amazes me that I can still remember them. What do you remember about your Christmas programs as a child?

Sunday, December 14, 2008


I know. It's been a while since I've posted, but I can give excuses. Note the word "excuses" and not "reasons". I'm in a slump. I feel like I have nothing blog-worthy going on right now so I just haven't been here. Granted, I am busy, too, but when I want to, I can always make the time to blog. This past week has been different. Maybe it's the weather. Maybe it's too much mental stuff going on. Maybe it's not enough time spent with the Lord. (Uh, what do you think?! :)

I do know that there is a devotional I read this past week that I can't seem to get out of my head, so I will share it on here. Our Christian book store is going out of business, so when I was there last week, I picked up a mother's devotional, you know, the short one-pager type because that's the extent of our time most days. I eagerly picked it up to start reading it and had a few laughs and a few insightful thoughts as I read the words of the author talking about Proverbs 31 and how different perspectives on women's lives could cause individual responses to this "wonder woman" that is talked about. She commented that her mom's description of her would be totally different because of the perspective of her mother as opposed to her own description of herself. This description of a woman in Proverbs 31 is from God's perspective, and that's why there are so many positive attributes mentioned.

Well, here I was, enjoying this little devotional and the author's humorous comments, and then I turned the page to the application question and it stopped me in my tracks. I mean, it not only stopped me in my tracks, but it made my heart race and my eyes start to tear up. I had to close the book because I couldn't answer the question: "Write at least a dozen nice things about yourself from your heavenly Father's persepctive." I couldn't do it. I couldn't even think of one thing that I could write. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with life, I can't always see the good that may be in me. All I could think of were the unkind things I had said to the boys that day and the fact that I was impatient with some of the tasks I wanted Fred to do. I could think of the mess that the house has gotten into, the cookie orders that I was behind with, the Christmas letters that still weren't done. I thought of the judgement I had cast on someone because of a comment made (even if it was only in my mind), and the guilt I felt because of ignoring the prompting of the Spirit in another area because it was more convenient (read: selfish) for me.

My page is still blank. I can't answer this question right now. I know that there are nice things that God says about me, but for some reason, I'm struggling with actually identifying them and claiming them as encouragement from the Lord. Maybe if I could hear some of your comments, it would help me to be able to hear the same from God. You don't have to write a dozen nice things God would say about you, but tell me one nice thing that God would say about YOU from His perspective. How do you think God brags about you? It's not YOU bragging about you, but GOD bragging about you! Please share!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Make and Take

I don't know if I'm allowed to post stuff like this, but for those of you who need fun craft and activity ideas for kids, I stumbled upon this website this week and have spent too much time checking things out. Warning!! You may, too!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I don't do well with change. I like predictability. Stability. Security. Change rarely sits well with me. Back in September I experienced a weekend that was so full of change I could hardly bear it.

The first change came on Saturday afternoon when we stopped at Grandpa's house on our way home from the Wayne County Fair. Driving into Grandpa and Grandma's driveway always had a touch of anticipation that came along with it because you could almost count on Grandma being in the kitchen and Grandpa was either sitting at the table looking out the window at you, toothpick in mouth, or else he would holler to you from his garage or the garden if he were outside. This time driving into the driveway didn't have that anticipation at all, but almost a fearful dread. After picking blueberries in Grandpa's patch without him, I wandered through his barn, his garage, and the empty, empty, empty house. I could hardly stand being in there because it was soooo very empty. It was change, and it just wasn't right. I almost half expected him to walk out of the bottom part of the barn and call me in to see his racks of onions drying, but when I walked in there, it was empty. No Grandpa. No onions. Just empty shelves and drying racks. I had a hard time driving away from that house because I knew I would never go back in there again.

Sunday morning was the second change that tore me apart emotionally. We went to East Akron that morning and saw this sign. I knew it would be there. I was expecting it, but when I saw it in person, I knew the morning would be a rough one for me. The East Akron Apostolic Christian Church at 844 East Archwood Avenue was up for sale. This is the church that I grew up in from my birth.
I played Red Light, Green Light and Mother May I on this sidewalk and these stairs. I mowed this lawn and shoveled these walks.
I was taught in this Sunday School room and I also taught in this Sunday School room. I ate many lunches and family night suppers in here. I just hung out with my friends writing on the chalkboards in this room.
I also spent a lot of time in this room as a little girl, reading "One towel is all you need" on the paper towel dispenser and wondering who's mother had that printed on there. We would be fascinated by that little dial on the water meter that would spin around like crazy when we flushed the toilets, never realizing that we were wasting water as we entertained ourselves. Shhhh. Don't tell Mom and Dad this, but we also kept ourselves entertained by wadding up sopping wet pieces of toilet paper and throwing them up so that they would stick on the ceiling. Sometimes they'd fall down on the old ladies that would innocently walk in on our fun.
This is the sanctuary where many, many memories originated in this building, from Sunday School Christmas programs to rushing to sit next to Aunt Irene during afternoons (because she would pull out her Halls cough drops, already unwrapped and placed in a kleenex for us) to the unthinkable teenage game of Truth or Dare. There is the precious memory of me giving my testimony to the church and then being baptized behind those heavy, red velvet drapes. There are memories of weddings and Big Sings and Girls Group practices and baptisms and Arthur and Ben and Paul and John and a host of other ministers. Yes, there were some sad and troubling times in here as well, but my memories right now want to linger on the good.
Good-by, East Akron. You are now sold to another group of people who want to make this their house of worship. You have been a building that brought the Light to a dark world. God has blessed your walls and the souls that came and left from this place. Each person has their own set of memories from within your doors; some good, some bad. But I know that for 57 years, children of God have been able to worship Him in a building that had been dedicated for this purpose. I will probably never walk through your doors again, but the real Church, to which East Akron belonged, can never be sold! One day I will be able to worship my God in a Place that far surpasses what East Akron has offered me, and I know that this is one change that I am looking forward to! When I enter Heaven, that change will be worth all the struggles of earthly change that I've ever experienced. Good-by, East Akron. I will never forget you.

My Watkins Gift to You!

To all of you local people (Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, etc.) out there reading this, I want to give you a Watkins Christmas gift this year! Take a peek at my online catalog, place your order with me before December 10, and I will give you FREE SHIPPING!! No limits on the amount of your order, just email me your selections and I will place your order for you and pay for your shipping! It's a great deal! Don't miss out!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanks on the Weekend

As a final "thanks" post for November, I need to say that I am thankful for God's grace. This weekend at church we heard six testimonies of six different people with six different personal paths that God took them down, but all with the same beginning and ending. The youngest one just turned 15 two days earlier and the oldest was 91. Each one of the six grew up in a Christian home where they were taught from the Bible and whose parents prayed for them faithfully, yet each one also did their own thing, wandered away from God (some more than others), but all came to the conclusion that God's grace and forgiveness was what they needed in their lives. Although all the testimonies were very touching to hear, I think I was impacted the most by the 91 year old man who told us that all through his childhood, his parents taught him the Words of Life, but he never applied them to his life. Even though he left his parents and any connection with any church, he said that he could never get out of his head the prayer of blessing that his father prayed on his deathbed for his son. Ivan said that the only thing he could remember from that prayer was that his father asked God to keep the words that Ivan had been taught in his heart so that he would see his need for a Savior. For SEVENTY years Ivan remembered that prayer, but did nothing about it. It wasn't until he was around 90 years old that he decided that he'd better find a church that would be willing to bury him some day. Through this decision of his, he started attending our church and speaking with some of the other Serbian speaking members of the church and "found out" (as he put it) that God didn't think he was too old to accept him! Amazing! We witnessed his baptism the next day, as he stood next the 15 year old, and rejoiced that God's grace was still available to him after all these years!

I'm also thankful for the sweet little teenage girl who babysat for us this weekend because she not only played with the boys, but she cleaned up my house, too!!! I was almost dreading coming home because I know how the boys can be with a babysitter, but I was shocked and impressed and thrilled beyond words when I walked in the door! You can be sure that I'll be asking for her services again ... the only problem is that she lives an hour away and is only in town on special occassions like the baptism weekend we had at church. Bummer. She's GOOD!!!!