Monday, December 30, 2013

Oh What a Difference a Camera Can Make!

We've talked about getting a new camera for several months, and finally ordered it just before Christmas. Tom had done a lot of research to find just the right one -- like our old, reliable SLR film cameras but digital, that you can manipulate yourself and get good, crisp results. (There was a lot more to what we were looking for than that, but I think you get the picture!)

On Saturday this huge box arrived on our doorstep. It contained the camera body and lens and all the incidentals we need. Tom spent much of the day just learning some basics. We were sitting in our living room that evening and Tom was showing me some of the things he'd learned from the manual. I picked up the camera and zoomed in on the three wise men who were on the coffee table in front of me. Click! And look how this turned out! 

I then focused on the television stand, where one of the Joseph-less manger scenes stands. Without doing anything to prep, I got the nativity in my viewfinder and clicked. Look at the difference between this new photo and the one that I carefully set up a few days ago and published in the blog. 

New camera

Old camera

Can you see why we're excited?

Marilee, Tom's sister, came up Sunday. Now there's a gal who loves to take pictures. Whether she's filming a step-by-step record of us making pizza for dinner or on the prowl for snow geese, she almost always has her camera handy. She is, in fact, the one who took this picture at the farm in New York one snowy winter's day.

Off we went to the Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach Camp, each with a camera in hand. It was a riot of lights and scenes and awe. And it provided a good workout for the new camera.

I must say, it was probably the least desirable setting to experiment with a new camera, with Tom hardly having had time to get familiar with it, with it being outside at night, and with how difficult it is to keep a camera still and the lights from blurring when you're not using a tripod, but I think the results are laudable, even really, really good! (All but the last two were taken on the new camera.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

What Happens to Our Prayers?

Here's a question for you: What happens to our prayers once they have been heard and answered by God? They have completed their purpose and are just notations in our prayer journals, right?

No, actually, our prayers don't stop there. In His gracious economy, God has a further purpose for our prayers.

Revelation 5 gives us some insight into this. As John watched, a scroll was presented, but there was no one found in heaven or on earth or under the earth who was worthy to open it. John wept and wept,  until one of the elders pointed out the Lion/Lamb to him. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seal,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased men for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth" (5:7-10).

Our prayers are incense, filling the bowls of the elders in heaven! He has made of us, His saints, a kingdom and priests to serve Him. Our prayers -- prayers of praise to God and petition for ourselves and our world -- are sweet smelling offerings to God, used in worship of Him. Not only has He redeemed us by His blood, He cherishes our prayers and repurposes them for heavenly worship!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Behold He Comes, Bringing Hope

(Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. He came once, as the Christmas babe we greet; one day He will come again to set things right. For the four Sundays of December we will celebrate Advent by finishing the statement: Behold he comes, bringing... with a final installment on Christmas Day.

Jesus entered a dark world. For 400 years God had been silent. His promise of a Savior must have seemed empt, just words. But Jesus came, and with Him, hope!

Today, in a world where all hope seems to be vanishing, our Lord comes to us, bringing a hope that will endure!

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
(Lamentations 3:21-26)

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27)

...we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:13-14).

My prayer for you this Christmas day, and for the year ahead, is this:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

No Joseph

No Joseph
As I unwrapped the nativity figures I brought home from Burundi I noticed that there was no Joseph character. Mary? Yes. Baby Jesus? Yes, and two kneeling sheep. Two shepherds, complete with removable staffs, and four stately wisemen (all identical; all presenting the same gift). But no Joseph.

You want to know what's really weird? Joseph is missing from two of my other nativities as well! Can you really have Christmas without Joseph?

A shepherd stands in for Joseph

Joseph gets very little coverage in the scriptures. Did you know that there is not one word spoken by him in the entire Bible? Although he never speaks, we know enough about Joseph from what is said about him to see that he is fit to be the human father of the Son of God.

Righteous. That's what Matthew calls Joseph. Let's look at the characteristics of this righteous man.

Joseph was compassionate, and not rash. When he learned of Mary's pregnancy he did not take quick action to protect his reputation. His concern was for Mary's well-being more than his own. He did not want to expose her shame publicly and decided it would be best to divorce her quietly.

Joseph was open to God and was able to recognize his voice. On four separate occasions the Lord used dreams to give Joseph very specific direction.
- In the throes of deciding what to do about Mary, an angel came to him in a dream. Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, the angel instructed (Matt 1:20).
- When Herod sought to kill Jesus, the Lord interrupted Joseph's sleep with these words, Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt (2:13);
- Once Herod had died the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel (2:20);
- But Joseph was afraid, because Archelaus, Herod's son, was now in charge. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee (2:22).

Joseph was quick to obey. In response to each dream, he took action. He trusted God so much that he recognized His voice and promptly did what he was told.

Joseph was faithful. He took the law seriously when he wrestled with Mary's dilemma, he went to Bethlehem for the census (Luke 2:21), he had the boy circumcised on the eighth day and named him Jesus (2:21), he presented Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem and sacrificed to the Lord (2:22-24), he did everything required by the Law of the Lord (2:39), and he made the annual trip to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover (2:41).

Joseph was a devoted father. He surely was tender with Mary during their trip to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus. Did he think it strange that this Son of God was born in a stable and had only a manger for a bed? Or that their visitors were poor shepherds and rich sages? He marveled at Simeon's words at Jesus' dedication and would later be astonished to see people's reaction to the twelve-year-old Jesus.

Jesus was obedient to his father. Luke tells us that after Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them (2:51). Jesus had the example of Joseph's obedience to all the law to teach him how to be obedient both to his human parents and his Heavenly Father (John 8:29, Heb 5:7-10).

We read in Luke, just prior to the genealogy of Jesus, this astonishing statement: Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph (3:23). We don't know how old he was when he died, but from the time the angel appeared to Mary until Joseph's final breath he was thought to be the father of Jesus.  "Isn't this Joseph's son?" the people asked when they heard the gracious words that came from [Jesus'] lips (Luke 4:22).

Only a righteous man could have filled Joseph's role as a human father to the Son of God. In the cast of Christmas characters, the part played by Joseph is vital. The strong, silent Joseph is just the man for the role. Take him out of the story and you'd have a gaping hole.

There is a hole in the story when there is no Joseph

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Behold He Comes, Bringing Joy

(Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. He came once, as the Christmas babe we greet; one day He will come again to set things right. For the four Sundays of December we will celebrate Advent by finishing the statement: Behold he comes, bringing... with a final installment on Christmas Day.)

When Jesus took up the scroll in the synagogue, as recorded in Luke 4, he read from the prophet Isaiah: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the provide for those who grieve in Zion -- to bestow on him a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment or praise instead of a spirit of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3).

The angels told the shepherd, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11).

Peter reminded his readers that though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8).

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It gives vivid, tangible evidence of the presence of God in our lives. What could be more winsome than a person, filled with the presence of the Lord, living joyfully, even in the face of difficulties?

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy -- to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Every Hymn is a Christmas Carol

You hear it in the mall and on the radio. You sing it at church. Even our neighbor's musical deer yard art includes a lovely rendition in its playlist: "Shepherds we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plains..." It's a Christmas carol, heralding the birth of the Savior. Shepherds We Have Heard on High and dozens of other hymns and classical pieces about the coming of the newborn King receive top billing during the Christmas season, but as soon as the tree comes down and the decorations are stowed away for another eleven months, the Christmas music gives way to a broader range of other, more generic church music.

But aren't all hymns, after all, Christmas carols?

If they exalt Jesus Christ, if they speak of the love of the Heavenly Father, if they give glory to the Holy Spirit (whose role in this world is to remind us of Jesus), if they encourage us in our faith and equip us to stand firm, then they assume the virgin birth of a boy-child, fully human and fully divine, the Son of God who laid aside the glory that he enjoyed with the Father to be made one of us. The hymns of the church find their foundation in this most amazing moment in history, when God's own Son, Jesus, took on himself the form of a servant, entered our world, and lived in obedience to his Father, making it possible for us to be made right with God and experience life eternal! There is not a hymn that we sing that is not born from the truth of the incarnation.

All our hymns point us to the babe in the manger. And do not all our Christmas carols point us to the gospel story? As we sing them do they not call us to remember the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and challenge us to walk worthy of our calling as children of God in this world?

As you listen to these hymns, I challenge you to see both Baby Jesus and King Jesus in the story they tell. Let their truth draw you to him whose birth we celebrate. Rejoice! Emmanuel has come!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Reward of Prayer

"I used to play a game with my two children," says Haddon Robinson in Jesus' Blueprint for Prayer. "I would clutch some pennies in my hand and allow them to pry open my fingers to get the coins. My children would sit on my lap and work feverishly to get the money. Once they captured the coins they would scream with delight and jump down to treasure their prize.

"I loved having my youngsters laugh and play while sitting on my lap. The pennies were insignificant.

"When we pray, we often concentrate on the gifts in God's hand and ignore the hand of God Himself. We pray fervently for the new job, or for the return of health. When we gain the prize we are delighted. And then we have little more to do with God.

"If we are only after the coins, God's hand serves only as a way to pay the rent, heal the sickness, or get through the crisis. After the need is met, the hand itself means little to us.

"While God in His grace does give good gifts to His children, He offers us more than that. He offers us Himself. Those who are merely satisfied with the trinkets in the Father's hand miss the best reward of prayer -- the reward of communicating and communing with the God of the universe."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Far From Home at Christmas Time

My twenty-eighth Christmas found me five thousand miles from home. I had left Seattle in September to begin a two-year missionary assignment in Japan. I had been excited to go, yet quite nervous. How would I adjust to such a new situation, I wondered. As it turned out, the kindness and support of both my fellow workers and Japanese friends made for a much easier adjustment than I had anticipated.

But there was one last hurdle to my settling in: I'd never spent Christmas away from home, and I didn't know if I could manage.

My missionary friends and I poured ourselves into Christmas preparations. An artificial tree was decorated and placed on a table in the corner. The house was cleaned and cookies were baked as we got ready to host numerous parties with our English classes. We greeted guest, some who had never been in the home of Americans, and shared the Christmas story as a part of the festivities. In Japan Christmas is not a national holiday. It is celebrated commercially, though -- with music and decorations in the department store, gifts given to the children, and store-bought Christmas cake.

Of course the church relishes the Christmas celebration and takes advantage of the opportunity to share God's love with all they can. Our small house church was no exception. We converted a neighborhood art school into a place of worship and presented the gospel through a candlelight Christmas Eve service. We had a tremendous attendance, even if you don't count the plaster busts that peered down from the shelves around the room.

I found it to be one of my most joyful Christmases. The scripture that best represented my heart that season was Psalm 116:12-14: What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

The Lord had blessed me and was using me in some small measure to touch others. Miles from home, God's work provided the identity and security that had always been associated with home. So "home" was not so much a location as an attitude.

My two-year assignment stretched into three years. Twice more I celebrated Christmas in Japan. My second Christmas was a quiet celebration with co-workers after I'd had a 10-day stint in the hospital. My third Christmas was observed in the midst of a blizzard which knocked out the electricity for three days. The power came on just long enough for us to cook the turkey!

Of course, I missed being home, but even then I knew that God was with me and I was able to appreciate my three unique Christmas experiences.

Wherever you are this year, whatever your circumstances, I pray that you will see God's hand in your life and will have a blessed Christmas!

* * * * * * *

Adapted from a post that appeared in december, 2010.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Behold He Comes, Bringing Life

(Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. He came once, as the Christmas babe we greet; one day He will come again to set things right. For the four Sundays of December we will celebrate Advent by finishing the statement: Behold he comes, bringing... with a final installment on Christmas Day.)

Of all the writers of scripture, John best portrayed the truth of Jesus Christ as life. Here are three statements recorded by John:

In him was life, and that life was the light of men (John 1:4).

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (John 11:25).

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:11-12).

Prayer -- Lord, You breathed life into us at creation; You are our source of life. Yet You offer us even more. You offer eternal life. This Advent Season, might people seek You for the life that only You can give.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Good Brain Game

Do you know about dollar words? You assign value to each letter of the alphabet, with A being worth one cent, B being two cents, and so on. Z is worth 26 cents. You choose a word, determine the value of each letter in that word, then add up the values. Can you find words whose total is 100? Those are dollar words.

This is difficult. Tom and I heard about dollar words on an NPR story yesterday, introducing the book  Because of Mr Terupt by Rob Buyea. As soon as we heard about dollar words I whipped out a notebook and got to work. I tried the names of each member of our family. No name was worth a dollar, not even my given name, Virginia, with it's 22-cent letter, V. It netted me only 89 cents. (Too many I's, and the A is basically worthless.) "Missus" works, but we seldom write the word that way. Certainly "Mrs" doesn't count. "Negotiated" worked too. "Tripled" would have worked, if it had two Ps. As I've already mentioned, this is difficult.

I don't know who thought up dollar words, but Rob Buyea sprinkled them throughout his book. As a classroom teacher himself, he introduced them to his own students, challenging them to see if they could come up with a word or two at home. A student named Ryan retuned to class the next day, waving a sheet of paper covered, front and back, with dollar words. Seems his father was a computer programmer who got into the assignment. He helped Ryan out by creating a program that would retrieve all the dollar words in the dictionary!

Here's a hint that might help you get started. If your word were to have five Ts in it (each worth 20 cents) and no other letters, you would automatically have a dollar word. But, of course, Ttttt is not a word. Nor is Yyyy (four 25-cent letters). But with a few substitutions you might find some words that will work. But don't try "Support." I already did, and it's way off. 

It seems to me that this would be a great exercise for kids to improve their math skills as well as their word skills. But if it's words your working on, and not math, this calculator will evaluate each word you type in and let you know its value.

OK, so here's a question. What day of the week is a dollar word? (You've got to figure it out yourself; I'm not telling!) That's just one of the riddles in The $1.00 Riddle Book. You can buy it at Amazon or you can check it out from the Sno-Isle Library. But if you try the library, you're going to have to wait until I'm finished with it. The same goes for Because of Mr Terupt

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In the Crowd

In the Crowd
by Sharon Milan

...but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. (Luke 9:11)

Crowds are usually something I try to avoid, I simply like my space. You will not find me the day after Thanksgiving at 5:00 a.m., pushing my way through the crowd to possibly get the "best deal." There is no sale, good enough to cause me to rush in. Yet when I read in Luke about Jesus and His precious disciples trying to withdraw to Bethsaida it says the crowds "learned about it and followed him." When I read this I am right there! If I had heard the verbal advertisements about Jesus, realized He was possibly the "best deal," I would have grabbed my son and pushed our way into the crowd. Why? My son needs healing -- healing from Autism. Scripture clearly says he "healed those who needed healing." Right? So this is one crowd I would have rushed to be in.

Obviously I was not there that day so very long ago; but I am in that crowd, none-the-less. I am in the crowd of those praying, the crowds of moms and dads crying out, "Hey, what about our child...heal our child, please...we have followed you here...we have waited so long...we truly believe you alone can heal him."

Now, I picture myself back in that literal crowd in Luke. I begin to wonder...were there other parents there -- besides those rejoicing -- parents that day saying, "Hey, what about our child?" Or perhaps they were aching for their own healing. Yet God's Word says that those needing healing were healed. Would everyone in the crowd that day agree? I wonder. I stand in the road now realizing it is not about healing, it is about purpose. We each come into this world with one purpose; that being, to glorify God. I look around the crowd and it becomes clearer to me, that those whom He heals He does so for His glory and those whom He chooses not to heal will still glorify God in their "not-healed" state. Could it be my son does not need healing to fulfill God's purpose in his life?

God's work in and through our son's life has already been so evident on many occasions. This has been done not despite his Autism, but because it is a tool in the hand of his Creator. His journey continues to cause him to b more like Christ all the time, though he himself does not see it. Our son often feels rejected and not understood, lonely and different as one carrying a heavy load that others cannot comprehend. I have no doubt that these are feelings fully understood by Christ Jesus, who carried His own heavy load. Now do not get me wrong, I will still pray for my son to be healed, but only in accordance with God's perfect plan and His will. Jesus Himself has even given us that example. Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42.)

My son carries the cup of Autism and I help as best I can to carry it when it seems too heavy for him; but mostly I encourage him with the truth that God has created him for a specify purpose. Perhaps you are carrying a cup too...perhaps you are in that crowd, pushing in desperation for that healing, finding comfort in the truth of God's Word, His love and His plan. Do put yourself in the crowd, but push for His will and purpose to be accomplished. He really is the "best deal." And, I'll see you in the crowd.

* * * * *

Thank you, Sharon, for letting me share this devotional with my readers.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Best News in the World

You may already have seen this, but it's still the best news in the world!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Behold He Comes, Bringing Salvation

(Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. He came once, as the Christmas babe we greet; one day He will come again to set things right. For the four Sundays of December we will celebrate Advent by finishing the statement: Behold he comes, bringing... with a final installment on Christmas Day.)

In prophesying the coming of Jesus, Isaiah said, Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:4-5).

When Simeon, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel, held the infant Jesus at His dedication at the temple, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that Jesus was the Savior for whom he had waited. Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel (Luke 2:29-32).

Peter and John boldly proclaimed, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Forgiveness, cleansing, reconciliation, a renewed relationship with God the Father -- this is salvation, and has come to us through Jesus. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Watching the Sun Rise

Sunrise this morning, 7:43. I was out about 7:40 yesterday morning, ready to make a right hand turn onto Pioneer Highway so that I could go to town and get gas. But when I glimpsed the pink sky through the trees on my left, I made a decision to chase the sunrise. I pulled off the road in a wide spot that offered an obstruction-free view of the sun as it made its way up over the Cascade Mountains and filtered through the few clouds in the sky. I determined then that I would return this morning, camera in hand, and do my best to capture the glory of the sunrise.

This is what I saw today.

7:42:06 AM 













Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Celebrating Sunchokes

We moved into our house in early October, 2003, when the overcrowded back yard looked beautiful with one of just about everything finishing out the season. But the enormous decorative artichokes along the deck seemed useless to me. They took up an inordinate amount of space and offered little pleasure. We dug them out when they died away and happily lived artichoke-free for several years.

So when Tom brought home a couple of Jerusalem artichoke starts that were given to him at work, I was not too excited. Besides our earlier artichoke experience, I remember once attempting to eat one of those spiny things that require peeling the tiny leaves to get to the flesh, just for the joy of dipping it in melted butter. (WikiHow shares 11 steps involved in eating an artichoke. That's way too much trouble for me!)

And then there's the joke I've heard more than once since marrying into the Kauffman family. Sign seen in the produce department: Artichokes 2 for $1.00. (Translation -- Artie chokes two for a dollar. If you don't get the joke right off, don't worry about it.)

All these thoughts popped into my mind when Tom carried the starter plants home, then made a place for them in the garden. As it turns out, these lovely Jerusalem artichokes were like noting I'd ever experienced before.

They are a root plant, and just two or three are capable of providing quite a crop. They were outside the kitchen window, and they grew tall. Early on one of them got uprooted in the wind, and we tried a few sunchokes, as they are nicknamed. They were quite small and a lot of work to clean and prepare, but my, oh, my, were they tasty! I didn't have to peel them but I did have to scrub them, then I sliced them and seasoned them a bit and popped them in the oven. I thought I was roasting them, but later I discovered how to truly roast vegetables. Hang on, I'll get to that.

The early birds were sweet, but it's recommended that you wait till after the first frost to harvest them. By early October they towered above the top of the kitchen window. In mid-October I cut the blossoms and brought them into the house. They lasted for days in their vase on the dining room table.

Finally, in mid-November, Tom harvested them. He filled a box with the knobby roots, which we have stored in the garage. Some of the sunchokes are slightly tuberous, others rounder, and most have several knobs on them.

Researching how to process and serve sunchokes has broadened my world. I'm not kidding, I love the things I've been able to do with them.

I used them fresh the other day in a salad with fennel and apples. It was delicious.

My greatest success, however, has come from roasting them with other vegetables. I filled my roasting pan nearly full the other day with the following vegetables, most of which were organic. Note that I didn't peel anything except the onions. Otherwise everything was cooked in its skin -- scrubbed, of course. I cut them up into bite-sized pieces. Here's my list:

green beans
Bosc pears

I drizzled olive oil over the vegetables, then seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic, oregano, basil, and parsley, stirred them together, and put them, uncovered, in a preheated 450° oven. I roasted them for 30 minutes, then stirred them again and continued roasting until all the vegetables were cooked. (You may want to remove the veggies that are already cooked through after 30 minutes.)

The first night we had nothing else for dinner, just a dish of vegetables. That's got to be good for you! These are so delicious that I expect to make them at least twice a month. There are so many kinds of veggies you can roast, and I have some experimenting to do.

If you haven't already discovered roasted vegetables you will be surprised by how sweet they taste. They are somewhat caramelized and the flavors blend beautifully together. The pears I used were rock hard but they softened up nicely and added their own sweetness to the surprisingly natural sweetness of the carrots, parsnips, sunchokes, and even beets. So, so heavenly!

Well, I guess I'll go have a bowl of leftover roasted vegetables. I'm hoping that I will still have a little room left for some chocolate once I've eaten my veggies, but that's pretty unlikely.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Making a Wreath and a Memory

I'd rather spend an hour at Staples than at Michael's. Checking out office supplies excites me a lot more than browsing potential craft projects. I can create a great digital scrapbook, but please don't ask me to make one with photographs, scissors, and sticky-paper.

True story: I got an Incomplete in my college weaving class. I thought it would be so relaxing, but it wasn't. It was not my only attempt to develop my latent gift of craftiness. One year for Christmas I bought hundreds of sequins and covered 6-inch candles with them using straight pins. The candles looked quite pretty when they were finished, but my thumbs took a while to heal. I have jars of buttons -- vintage buttons, decorator buttons, plain buttons, all sizes, all colors -- that are left over from my short career as a designer of button jewelry. I got the idea from a craft project at a retreat, and, come to think of it, that is how I got turned on to bead bracelets, too. I only made a couple before I realized it wasn't the craft for me.

Lest you think I am putting myself down, I don't really see it that way. I'm just not into crafts; they usually make me more distressed than relaxed. I'd prefer to read a good book or write something.

So you may be surprised to learn that I spent a couple of hours on Saturday at Christianson's Nursery in Mt Vernon, making a wreath for our house. And I had a lot of fun doing it!

Karen signed us up for the class. I love being with Karen -- who is quite crafty, I might add -- and am always up to an outing with her. She filled her trunk with greens and we took our gardening gloves and clippers and set off. The class was held in a greenhouse with work benches and wreath presses set up for the class. Besides the greens that Karen brought, I purchased a couple of additional kinds to fill out my wreath.

We chose to make 10-inch wreaths. That means we needed to make ten bundles, each using the same greens, and press them into our frames. I clipped the ends of the greens I wanted -- fir, pine, a little cedar, salal, and two or three other things I don't know the names for -- and made a bundle. Then I put it onto the wreath press, being careful that there were no stray ends that would fall out, and put my foot on the lever, giving it a good couple of pumps. This crimped the frame tips and closed them over the bundle. Only nine to go!

It took me a while to get into the swing of things, but I gotta tell you, it was really satisfying to create my wreath!

A small sampling of the greens available for purchase at Christianson's

Choosing my greens and preparing my bundle

My partially finished wreath in the press. You see that the bundle on the right
has been pressed so that the tips on the frame are crimped to hold them in place.

Karen and I with our finished wreaths. They are both on 10-inch frames,
but they are quite different from each other, just like the people who made them!

So now, just beside our front door, hangs my fragrant, bushy wreath.  I'm quite proud of how it turned out, but I'll probably go to Michael's to buy some ribbon for it, or wire in some pine cones, just to finish it off, though it's perfectly lovely just as it is.

I don't suppose I'll start a wreath-making business, or even make wreaths for Christmas gifts, but I'm savoring the joy of doing something with my hands besides typing and cooking. And the experience was all the richer because I got to hang out with my friend.

Even when my beautiful wreath is dried up, I'll still have this great memory. Thank you, Karen.

* * * * * * *

If you are interested, Christianson's is offering independent wreath making every day until December 24, from 9-4. Check out their schedule of events here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Behold He Comes, Bringing Light

(Advent, waiting for the coming of Christ. He came once, as the Christmas babe we greet; one day He will come again to set things right. For the four Sundays of December we will celebrate Advent by finishing the statement: Behold he comes, bringing... with a final installment on Christmas Day.)

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied his coming. Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn (Isaiah 60:1-3).

The apostle John says of Jesus, The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it....The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world (1:5, 9).

And Jesus confirmed this truth. When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12).

Prayer -- Darkness covers the earth, Lord, and it would swallow us up if it were not for you, the Light of the World. We wait for you, Jesus, our only source of light. May your light dawn anew in our lives and shine in our desperate world. Amen