Monday, December 30, 2013

The Best of 2013

I think my favorite week of the year is the week between Christmas and New Years!  It is usually a quiet, peaceful time with fewer regular responsibilities and more time for reflection.  I like to look back over the previous year and its joys and sorrows, and make plans and set goals for the upcoming year.

In looking back over 2013, I discovered that these were my top five most-viewed posts:

#1 Tackling my To-Do List When I returned Home

#2 How a Wise Woman Builds her House

#3 How do You Look at Your Husband?

#4 What Destroys More Marriages than Anything Else

#5 Loving Your Husband When You Disagree

I'm not sure if you read those particular posts, but lots of people did!  If you were one of the folks who read and then shared with your friends and contacts, thank you for sharing!

In looking back over the year, I've picked these as some of my personal favorites from the year:

The Year My Kids Started School Without Me

A Frog, A Fly and A Curious Little Boy

The One Word of Advice that Changed My Life

When Your Prince Acts Like a Frog

What to Do About Those Warts

Were any of these one of your favorites from the year?  If not, what was your favorite post of mine from 2013??

I also shared a lot of family milestones this year.  If you want a quick overivew of the year, these are my most "newsy" posts:

Our Christmas Miracle:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6, The Exciting Conclusion

My Mom's Journey:

Mom on a Mission

Mission Accomplished

When the End Seemed Near

A Miracle

Weddings and Anniversaries:

She Said YES!

Joe & Abby's Wedding Video

Celebrating 30 Years


The Announcement

Celebrating Motherhood (and Tay's Graduation)

Becoming a Grandmother

I hope you'll take this opportunity to click on the links and read any of the major posts you may have missed this year.  Then, I invite you to tell me which post was your favorite from 2013.  If you will leave me a comment telling me which post you liked the most, you may also leave a link to one of your favorite posts from your own blog from the past year!  I'll be sure to click over and read one of your top posts from 2013!

Thanks for reading and sharing the joys and sorrows of my life this past year!  I appreciate your support, your prayers, and your encouragement along the way!  I hope to see you here in 2014!

Friday, December 27, 2013

From my Front Porch ~ December 27, 2013

Welcome back to my weekly series, From my Front Porch, where I share updates from my home and family. My hope is that you'll fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea and imagine us sitting together on my front porch, chatting about life and catching up on the latest news!  I hope you'll join me each Friday on My Front Porch!  

December is such a busy, stressful, fun, exhausting, exhilarating month - filled with all the duties of daily life, plus decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking, creating of special memories, and attending (or performing in) Christmas recitals and programs.  Then, top that off with a few parties and special church services, and we all find ourselves "in over our heads!"  With the extreme busyness, it has been awhile since I've had time to sit and chat on my front porch!

Today, I want to grab a cup of Starbucks Christmas Blend Coffee with lots of cream and sit down with you and share some pictures and highlights from our family's Christmas.

First of all, Christmas Eve:

Christmas Eve day was spent primarily in the kitchen, cooking, cooking and cooking!!  It is such a blessing to have older kids who can share the cooking (and dish washing!) with me!  It makes it more fun and less exhausting, but I think we always tend to "bite off more than we can chew!"

That evening we paused our labors to focus in on the Christ of Christmas at our church's very special Christmas Eve Candlelight service.  While I was sitting there singing Christmas carols, I had the best surprise ever -- my 26-year-old daughter, Ashlyn, who lives five hours away, snuck into the pew and sat down beside me!  :)  What JOY filled my heart!  We weren't expecting to see her for a couple more hours!  :)  Here is a picture of Ashlyn and Alan taken right after the service was over!  :)

After the Candlelight service, we hurried home and put the finishing touches on our annual Christmas Eve party supper!  Here we are gathered around all the platters of delicious hors d'oeuvres ready to ask God's blessing on our food.  

A view of our feast . . .

This amazing array is a sampling of all of the sweets we made during the month of December!!  Tiffany was directly responsible for most of it! The centerpiece is a bowl full of Peppermint Punch!  :) 

Ashlyn finally got to meet her niece, Sarah!  It was love at first sight!  :)

Normally after we eat our party supper, we have the Annual Sibling Gift Exchange followed by watching (and/or sleeping through!) White Christmas, but this year Tay had to work untiil 11 pm :( so we switched things up a bit.  We watched White Christmas first, and then had the daunting task of trying to wake everyone up enough to exchange gifts at 11:30 pm! Due to that, our gift exchange wasn't nearly as lively as in years past!  ;)  We also skyped with Joe and Abby, who celebrated Christmas with Abby's family this year.  (Just for the record, I really don't like this whole things of kids growing up and getting married and not being home for the holidays!  Watch out "D" family -- you'll know what I mean next Christmas when it is our turn to have Joe and Abby!)  ;)

Now for Christmas Day:

Due to being up until 1 am, we all slept in on Christmas morning!

While I baked our traditional Breakfast Casserole, Ashlyn got some of the kids to join her for the "first annual Jingle Jog."

After breakfast, we gathered in the family room where Alan read the Christmas story from Luke 2.  Then, inspired by the book, The Sparkle Box we each shared some of the gifts we had given to Jesus in recent weeks, as we had shown His love to those around us.  

We ended up having a really special time of reflecting on the greatest gift of all -- Jesus and His Love and Grace.  Jesus paid the price for all to enjoy the gift of Salvation and Abundant Life.  Unfortunately, many reject that gift and refuse to unwrap it and make it part of their lives.  I hope YOU have accepted God's gift of salvation, but If not, please email me and we'll talk!  

Finally, it was time to open our gifts to each other!  We always start with the youngest child and go from youngest to oldest, opening each gift one at a time, so each gift can be savored and enjoyed by all. So, Bethany starts us off each year!  

The rest of these pictures are in no special order, just glimpses of gifts given and received.

Unfortunately, Tay had to leave for work again at 3 pm.  So, he left before Christmas Dinner was served, but Josh and Kristi arrived with Sarah in time to eat with us.  After dinner, we watched "A Very Merry Mix Up" on the Hallmark Channel, which was a really cute movie!  And then we watched "Despicable Me 2," which was Matt's gift to the family!  :)

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights . . ."
James 1:17

Thanks for stopping by my front porch for a visit! I'd love for you to take a moment to "sign my guest book" (leave a comment!) so I can know that you stopped by and enjoyed your visit!  Please join me again next Friday on my front porch!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Book that could Change Your Christmas

Christmas is in full swing at my house!  The tree is up; the house is all decorated for Christmas; Christmas music is playing; we are wearing our favorite Christmas shirts and sweaters (when the weather permits); we are shopping and wrapping and whispering secrets; and we are ending each busy day by gathering around the flickering candles of our Advent wreath to read from Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent.

Around here, we are all about having fun as a family, making memories, enjoying Christmas traditions, and spreading Christmas cheer, while also remembering the real "reason for the season" and looking for ways to bless and encourage others and share the Good News of Jesus' birth and death on our behalf.

It can be quite a challenge to enjoy all the Christmas traditions and activities and not let the real reason for celebrating Christmas be trampled under foot.

I was given a new children's book to review that holds the key to changing that with its simple but brilliant idea -- The Sparkle Box.  

This beautiful book is a great read aloud for young children, but has application for all ages. The story centers around a young boy, Sam, who is enjoying all the excitement of preparing for and anticipating Christmas.  He is especially curious about the mysterious, sparkling silver box on the mantle.  Sam's parents tell him that they will fill the box and open it together on Christmas Day.  Sam and his family give to people in need throughout the Christmas season, and when they finally open the special Sparkle Box, Sam discovers that the Sparkle Box is filled with pieces of paper describing their acts of compassion and love. Sam is puzzled until his Mom explains that whatever we do for people in need, we actually do for Jesus, (if done out of our love for Him). Therefore, by filling the Sparkle Box with acts of love and compassion, we are giving Jesus a gift that honors Him and makes Him happy! 

Tiffany reading The Sparkle Box to Matt and Bethany

Starting a Sparkle Box tradition is a great way to teach our children about the Joy of giving and to keep our eyes on Christ throughout the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season. We can fill our Sparkle Boxes with anything that would bring Joy to Jesus and others by spreading His love to a lost and dying world.  Click here to find ideas for including the Sparkle Box in your Christmas celebrations.

Have you done something similar in your home?  What kind of gifts does your family give to Jesus?  Please share here in the Comments or over on my Facebook page.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase through these links, I earn a tiny commission.  The book, The Sparkle Box, was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion.

Monday, December 9, 2013

To Bless a Homemaker Christmas Giveaway! {Win a Kitchen Aid Mixer!}

I'm excited to be joining with several other bloggers to bless one of our readers with a brand new KitchenAid mixer!!  To enter, click on the Rafflecopter Giveaway at the bottom of this post and follow the prompts.  You can complete as many of the options as you like!   

Homemaking, it's the work you do everyday, it's the life you live, and is a most praiseworthy calling! Ladies, we want to encourage you. We want to remind you that diligently serving your family and caring for your home each day is of value, eternal value. And we want to Thank You for encouraging us through your comments and responses. This summer 30 bloggers joined together To Bless A Homemaker and gave away a Brand New Installed Dishwasher! This week we are offering another giveaway to bless another Homemaker. This time the winner will receive a brand new, shiny KitchenAid mixer!

Each of you will also find new, encouraging blogs to read and glean from, as well as home businesses run by Christian Homemakers. The winner can opt to gift her mixer to a friend or relative if she'd like. Christmas is right around the corner! 


Marriage Monday

After Sarah was born, I posted on my Facebook page that I was taking a break with Marriage Monday, so that I could enjoy the holidays and my first grandbaby without the additional stress of trying to keep up with this series.  However, I realized last week that some of you may not be on Facebook and may have missed my announcement, so I decided to post it here.  I plan to resume my Marriage Monday posts in January, so please check back then for encouragement on being a godly wife and investing in your most important relationship after your relationship with the Lord!

In the meantime, I'd like to encourage you to read this outstanding post on Keeping Your Marriage Strong and Happy during the Holidays. I know this is a super busy time of year, but the couple of minutes it will take you to read this article will be well spent!

How do you stay connected with your husband during this busy time of year?  Please share in the comments!


Friday, December 6, 2013

From my Front Porch ~ December 6, 2013

Welcome back to my weekly series, From my Front Porch, where I share updates from my home and family. My hope is that you'll fix yourself a cup of coffee or tea and imagine us sitting together on my front porch, chatting about life and catching up on the latest news!  I hope you'll join me each Friday on My Front Porch!  

As you know (or may have suspected by the lack of activity here of late), I've been over-the-top busy lately!  First, there was the arrival of Sarah, who surprised us by coming four weeks early, then her sudden return to the hospital for jaundice, followed by a house full of company, the Thanksgiving holidays, Christmas Decorating, Christmas shopping, Lilla Rose vendor opportunities, and an abundance of extra activities everywhere!  Quite honestly, I've found myself exhausted!

While it is refreshing to sit on the porch for a minute and catch my breath (especially with a cool coastal breeze blowing), it is hard to sit here and chat with my To-Do List trailing behind me!  There are never enough hours in the day, but especially during the busy holiday season!  Can I get an "amen?"  ;) 

Thanksgiving already feels so far away, yet it was just a bit over a week ago! On Thanksgiving morning, while Alan and I stuffed our 24-pound bird and got it on to cook, the kids ran and/or walked the annual Turkey Trot.  Here they are, looking no worse for the wear!

When they got home, we rewarded their efforts with pumpkin pancakes, eggs and bacon, which has become a tradition on Thanksgiving morning!  Then, it was "all hands on deck" to get the house in order before the kids headed out to play their annual sibling football game!  

I always prepare as much of the Thanksgiving meal ahead of time as I can, so I only had a few tasks to attend to until it was time for the final push to get everything on the table, so I had a bit of extra time and decided to create this menu board out of a Chinet paper plate!  (Idea inspired by something I had seen on Pinterest!)

Gathering around the dining room table with family and friends to ask the Lord's blessing on our feast  . . .

My plate full of food!!  :)

An "ariel view" of our Thanksgiving crowd . . . 

On Friday, Alan bravely took all the girls to Jacksonville for some Black Friday shopping, while I spent the day selling Lilla Rose hair jewelry at the mall.

I'm not sure what the fellas did -- I guess watch football, play video games, and eat up all the leftovers!   ;)

On Saturday, we put up our Christmas tree . . . 

And decorated the house for Christmas . . . 

Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!  :)

Thanks for stopping by my front porch for a visit! I'd love for you to take a moment to "sign my guest book" (leave a comment!)  ;)  Also, if you have time, please drop by and visit with my dear friend, Lori. When she has time, she blogs from the front porch of her cozy little log cabin nestled in the woods of the South Carolina mountains.  You will enjoy her warm and witty writing style!  Tell her that Elizabeth sent you!  :)

Please join me again next Friday on my front porch!!

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