Wednesday, December 17, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things.... by Suzanne M. Brazil

Only 14 days left in 2014! Critics and sportscasters and journalists around the globe will be compiling lists of all the best, all the worst, and everything in between.

Here is a short list of some of my favorite things this year (not necessarily released this year):

Favorite Reads:

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen (Non-fiction)
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
This is Not the Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness by Laura Munson
Bringing in Finn by Sara Connell
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
The Map Thief by Michael Blanding (Non-fiction)
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro

Favorite Songs:
Royals by Lorde 
All About That Bass by Meghan Trainor
Tie it Up by Kelly Clarkson

Favorite TV Shows:
The Mindy Project

Movies were disappointing for me overall this year so I decided not to include them. I enjoyed the soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy and the movie was good but not great. Recently rented The November Man with Pierce Brosnan and it made me remember why he was such a good James Bond!
The book choices are eclectic and these are only the best of what I can remember reading. I've decided to try and keep a list in 2015.
I'm a Country music lover and Kelly Clarkson's tune got me in the mood for planning my daughter's wedding as she became engaged last Christmas.
What were your favorites of 2014? Is anyone doing a "10 Worst" list?
Wherever you are spending the holidays, may you find peace and happiness in the New Year. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Sweetness of the Season

The best part of Christmas for me is the church children's program. This year we acted out a darling little book entitled, One Starry Night by Jan Godfrey.

We had adorable little sheep. I can't show their faces here because I don't have their parents' permission. But I can share the adorableness of one naughty little sheep who played her part perfectly. She's my God-granddaughter, and instead of keeping her sheep ears on, she threw them to the wind and marched over to the narrator to see what she was up to.

My God-granddaughter, Emma Leigh, checks in with the narrator

A close-up. The intensity on Emma Leigh's face is precious, isn't it?

After the program, I presented the Sunday School teachers and Wednesday Night teachers little lanterns to show my appreciation for their had work in our children's ministry.

And then we gave every child in attendance a bucket full of goodies, including a hard-back copy of the book we acted out.

Just look at the adorable Christmas wrapping paper I found to wrap the books up in!

Sometimes, I get weary because our rural church is small and I don't have enough help. But being smaller also means our celebrations are more intimate and meaningful, I think, than you can feel in a big grand Christmas production. Not that I wouldn't mind being part of one someday. 

But for now, I'm thankful for naughty little sheep who wander around the stage without their ears, and the ability to touch each child and teacher's life personally. I can't imagine celebrating Christmas in rural Indiana any other way.

Karla Akins is the award-winning author of The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots, O Canada Her Story and is included in the best-selling Christmas anthology, Christmas Treasures. She is pictured here at Branson, Missouri at the Shoji Theater. You can learn more about Karla and her books at her website:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Church Cookbook Love

I wonder who put together the first church cookbook. I bet it dates back to ancient scrolls of the early church, when women wanted to share their favorite dishes with one another even then. At any rate, who doesn't have a favorite church cookbook in their cooking library, one they return to again and again for tried and true, down to earth recipes our families cherish. To some in the Christian community, contributing to a church cookbook has simply proven another way to serve one another.

My friend Mindy posted this picture on her Facebook page the other day, saying how she was not a foodie but had managed to wear out her favorite church cookbook anyway.

Photo by Mindy Peltier who blogs wonderfully at

I have a few favorites too. I've worn out two of these from my sister in law. Now I have to keep their pages in a folder. The crazy thing is, like Mindy, I don't consider myself a foodie!

This one sees a fare amount of use:

As does this one in which I am a contributor:

This next one is different. It's not a church cookbook. It's a Christmas cookbook given to me by a Christian School student about twenty years ago. It's almost as good as a church cookbook, at least as far as cookies are concerned.

How about you? Do you have a favorite cookbook you return to again and again? Is it a church cookbook? Have you contributed recipes to a church cookbook? Tell me about it, or post a picture!
May you get the best use out of your favorite cookbooks this holiday season!

Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seed catalog time

Seed Catalogs
Lisa Lickel

For Midwesterners, with our sense of independence and fierce belief in cultivation of a many things, snow on the ground makes us think of spring.

Spring makes us think of planting.

Planting makes us think of watching the corn grow.

Growing makes us think of harvesting.

Harvesting makes us think of preserving.

Preserving makes us think of winter.

And, yes, winter makes us think of ...seed catalogs.

Planning the garden is one major way to pass time when the wind is howling and snow crusts our windows. What will we try this year? As you can see below, I'm into flowers and herbs. I tried  a window sill herb garden last winter. Way too cold in the kitchen window, or the porch window. I guess I'm not meant to have fresh herbs in the winter. Or I could crank up the heat, but my midwesternness says, dry the things you grow in the summer to last in the winter. And that's what you got that fancy dehydrator for, doncha know?


The husband comes from farm stock, and plans much better, beans, corn, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, beets for me, garlic, onions. Blue potatoes which make lovely soylent-green-looked mashed potatoes or au gratin. Sometimes I forget to explain to guests and get the major "eew" look first. There's not much one can do to cover a first impression. But they look cool when you cut into them. I can dehydrate veggies with the best of them.

What do you plant in your garden?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Circling Winds

The Days begin entombed in ice
Their captive beauty to behold
Frosted works of snow and Ice
Put on display by fearless cold

The numbing silence of the days
and howling winds of night
conspire together to delay
The time when sun and earth unite

When the sun scouts out the scene
uneasy air reports the danger
Sending warmth to stake its claim
The charcoal skies explode with anger

Waters rise to join the fight
Breaking through strongholds of ice
Led by sun's unwavering light
Overcoming fields of white

Escaping cold's relentless grasp
With warmth its new companion
The earth claims victory at last
And re-creates with sweet abandon

Filling sky and earth alike
With colors now on full display
Hiding battle scars from sight
And cheering on the lengthening days

Shining waves of heat appear
A signal from the earth and sun
Restoration's end is near
A time of peace and rest has come

Anticipating shifting winds
The earth collects its bounty
Storing treasures deep within
While distant threats are mounting

With A show of colors flaming
Warning all to be aware
Restlessly with time remaining
Giving all it stands prepared

With a warning blast of frost
Cold pushes through to claim its fate
The battle short but all’s not lost
As earth and sun retreat to wait

There is no question of defeat
The circle slowly closing
Lingering memories of the heat
Keep hope alive and growing

Monday, December 8, 2014

Are You a Re-Gifter?

Shelley Wilburn

It’s that time of year. Christmas parties. Exchange gifts. Gag gifts. White elephant gifts (I’ve never received a white elephant as a gift, have you?). When you’re invited to a party and told to bring a gift, do you re-gift something from a previous party? Or do you go out and shop for just the right gift for this party? What are some gifts seemingly worth re-gifting? A gaudy tie, ugly sweater, toe socks, rose scented sachets, or gnome yard ornament? I’m sure there are worse ones.

When our son Logan was younger, we had come across an ugly, brown and yellow, argyle sock with a snap-purse enclosure at the opening. It was called the sock purse so one could “sock back some money.” We thought it was the perfect gift for a Christmas party we were going to. Logan wanted to be the one who gifted the sock purse. He had become buddies with a man named Steve, who worked for my husband's dad in his construction business, and hoped that Steve would end up with the gaudy thing. So, we rigged the exchange game that night to make sure Steve got the gift. 

The next year, Steve made sure Logan got the sock purse. We kept it and it went back and forth for several years, always making us laugh. It was always fun to see if the other was going to keep it up for the next year. After about the fourth year, Logan received the sock purse. As he opened it up, laughing that he had got the sock purse again, Steve told Logan, “You better check the sock, buddy.” When Logan opened the purse, he found a fifty dollar bill. What a great gift for a young boy to receive. The sock purse has since gone on to someone else and the game long since over, but Logan still remembers the special gift inside sock purse.

We often look at re-gifting as cheap and tacky. Those who re-gift are usually looked upon as cheap, shallow, and often rude. Who wouldn’t take the time to pick out a nice gift to give to someone? Why does the Christmas gift exchange have to be a gag gift? Why can’t it be a nice gift? But wait a minute. Christmas is the time of giving. Our greatest Gift came at Christmas and God expects us to re-gift that Gift. So in essence, God is a Re-Gifter too! Only His Gift is not cheap, shallow, tacky, or rude. His Gift is special, elegant, heart-felt, loving, and worth more than we could ever afford. Jesus.

When we re-gift Jesus to those who are in need, desperate, alone, lonely, and without hope, we not only lift their spirits, but we give them a Gift that keeps on giving. Because of the love of Jesus, when we give away what He has given us, eternal life, hope, joy, peace, we don’t lose ours. When we give Jesus to someone else, our gifts only multiply.

This Christmas season, take a lesson from God and be a re-gifter. Don’t give a tacky brown and yellow argyle sock purse though. Give the most precious, special Gift you could ever give to someone. Give Jesus, the Hope and Savior of the world. Not only will the person you give Him to be blessed, you will be too. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Simple Christmas Pleasures

Today, I have the privilege of speaking to a group of women on the subject of  "A Simple Christmas". The preparation I've done for the speech has gotten me to thinking about how the hustle and bustle of Christmas has taken the fun, and more importantly, the meaning away from the holiday.

It's time to take a step back and enjoy the simple pleasures of Christmas.

1. A drive around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.

2. Snuggling in front of the Christmas tree.

3. The joy on children's faces.

4. A delicious Christmas dinner

5. Playing in the snow.

6. Listening to Christmas carols. This reminds me of my childhood.

7. Making Christmas cookies.

8.  or a gingerbread house

9. A warm, crackling fire
10. My favorite, simple thing? Christmas Eve candlelight service.

What are some of your simple Christmas pleasures?

May you all have a blessed Christmas season.


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