My Christmas Story ~ 2019

Xmas Angel

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. ~ Luke 2:10-11, King James Version [KJV]

The Christmas season is my favorite time of year. It’s a season that starts with Advent and ends on the 12th Day of Christmas, sometimes called Epiphany or Three Kings Day (January 6). These twelve days are symbolic of the period of time from the birth of Jesus until the Three Magi arrived in Bethlehem bearing giftsfor the baby Jesus.

.Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A 12 Days   Xmas FL 19 JAX Chick-fil-A   JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers   Xmas 19 JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

My personal Christmas celebration began twelve days before Christmas when the local Chick-fil-A in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville had their own “12 Days of Christmas” with a percentage of sales going to local charities. I was sooo excited I got my pix taken in the sleigh with the Chick-fil-A cow from the TV commercials…or a kids dressed up like him. He does exist!

Xmas Fl 19 Deb Williams   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Tree #2   Xmas FL Deb Tree #3   Xmas Fl 19 Deb Nativity

Christmas has always been important to me. I believe in the supernatural, and so believe in the Spirit of Christmas. This is how Jesus manifests Himself to me at this time of year through the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s as if He’s wrapped me up in a warm blanket of good cheer, music, glittering lights. ~~  The next stop on my Christmas journey was my good and excellent gal-pal Deborah Williams. (see above) Now she’s a real decorating diva. She invited her good friend Becky Walsh, Valery Riley, a professor at Trinity College and kittie foster mom, and moi for a Christmas luncheon featuring one of her famous chili recipes. Yum.Xmas FL 19

Then Lynn Wood Rix (writing as Dalyn Woods) and Lou Ann Atwood, my JAX reading, writing, lunch/dinner, thrifting friends celebrated Christmas the Friday before with a steak dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse.

Xmas FL Destiny Kids

Next came the Christmas Sunday service at Destiny Church. Lou Ann Atwood and her adult son Douglas went with me. The children performed a brief skit…more like a skitlet, and then they sang a truly powerful rendition of the Christmas song, “My Gift Is Me.” There was also an amazing saxophone solo when the adult music team sang. I’d already put my phone away and couldn’t get it out and right-side-up fast enough to get a pix of the sax player. (My relationship with cell phones is another blog article.Xmas FL 19 Alaska Logs 2

Every year I do Christmas baking. I always make my mother’s recipe for Alaska Logs which is a huge hit wherever I bring them. Thanks mom!  Last Christmas I gave the recipe on this blog. Click for recipeThis year I also made Cheaters Christmas Stollen which Olivia, a sweetheart of a character in my new release ACTS OF MALICE, baked for guests. Stollen is a German Christmas sweet bread with fruit and possibly also nuts. The cheaters version is a hack that takes half-the-time. It’s the first time I’ve made it, and while it tastes good, I’ll perfect it by next year and give the recipe then. ~~ So, I finished my baking on the day of Christmas Eve. There wasn’t enough time to make a proper Eastern European Christmas Eve dinner for myself (meatless) and also get to a candlelight service. So, I threw family tradition to the wind and grabbed some dinner at Chili’s. Then I drove to the Mandarin Presbyterian Church for their candlelight service which was amazing. I didn’t take any photos of the magnificent church and choir because I was a first-time guest and as the service ended, we were instructed to light our candles and to walk out onto their piazza as a body to sing Christmas carols. At that point, I was juggling candle in one hand, handbag on my other shoulder. And then there’s that proverbial relationship (or lack of one) I have with cell phone…so, no photos.

I went to Lou Ann’s house for Christmas dinner and also didn’t take photos. Again, I was a first time guest. Besides, the good sized house was crammed with family and friends and the joint was jumpin’. And then there’s that relationship I have with cell phones. There’s no pix of it, but trust me, the prime rib was out-of-this world as were the desserts and everything in-between.

Beth, moi JAX Bch 12.18

I want to take a moment to remember and celebrate the life of my dear friend Beth Glash, Beth Ellen on Facebook, writing amazing Christian romance novels as Jenna Victoria. She waged a full assault on advanced triple negative breast cancer for eight years. This awful disease finally took her on December 5th of this year. We were friends while I lived in Brooklyn (NYC) and she lived on Long Island lunching, mall-crawling, going to movies. She visited me in Florida right before Christmas in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, it was so warm in mid-December that we hung out on Jacksonville Beach in short sleeves. She was an accomplished person in her career. As a Long Island RAW member, she organized and directed their annual luncheon at the Fox Hollow Country Club. What a gal! What a friend! I miss her.

Inspired Hostess/Bread and Butter Gifts ~ making merry

 

Coasters

I’m moving into a new condo and my mind is running to all things home/homey. Honestly, I’m NOT asking anyone to bring me a gift, but I am thinking of all of the holiday celebrations and house parties I can have in this larger home. As a teenager (in an era gone by) my friends and I spent a lot of time learning about etiquette and entertaining. At that time it was something girls/women learned (and I think it’s something boys/men need to learn). I’m often saddened by how little people think about customs and amenities. I think it’s important to preserve heritage and legacy. I still enjoy pouring over my cookbooks, especially the holiday ones, looking at table-scapes.

1 Peter 4: 8-9 [New International Version] ~ 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

On that note…it’s a good rule-of-thumb that unless you’ve been asked by the hostess/host to bring a food-item, such as the salad, always bring a small gift to dinner or to a house party. These have been called Hostess Gifts and/or Bread and Butter Gifts. This gift should be something the hostess/host can easily handle while performing all the duties required of him/her in making guests comfortable. My gal-pals and I have a ten-dollar limit on all gifts (birthday, Christmas, etc.). If you don’t know the host/hostess that well, shoot for $10 – $15. If you’re on a very strict budget, don’t turn down an invite because you can’t afford a gift. Go to Dollar General or an off-price store and purchase a gift that looks as if it cost ten dollars.

Coasters make a wonderful gift and are extremely useful to the person who loves to entertain. They can never have too many coasters.

kitchen utensils

Kitchen utensils are something everyone can use. They could be wooden, or plastic in bright colors, or in black/white. There are even whimsical ones. I’ve seen a salad spoon set with a bride painted on one spoon in non-toxic paint and the groom painted on the other. Super cute.

hand soaps

Hand soaps are practical and beautiful. I like both practical and beautiful. There are wonderful scented soaps and they come both in bars and in liquid form in pumps. These are readily available in super markets, drug stores, off-price stores. You could even throw in a scrub. A twist on this would be shower gels or environmentally friendly kitchen soaps.

herbed oil

Herbed cooking oil is terrific for the hostess/host know as a gourmet cook. You could add a container of Himalayan pink sea salt, or any other small gourmet item…and bon appetite!

A box of chocolates, the old stand by, is always fun. The hostess/host can open it and put it our for guests. More than a few people at the party will love chocolate.

Things not to bring, or to be cautious with.

Uncut flowers you get at the supermarket or other markets is not a good idea. The hostess/host will be in a better outfit. She/he will have to go find a vase that fits, or will have to cut the flowers to a vase he/she has and mix in the powder that comes with the flowers. This is messy and will take her/him about ten minutes. Bringing flowers in a vase is also not a good idea because someone may be allergic. Scented candles have the same problems with allergies. Be sure you know your host/hostess will use them.

Wine and liquor should only be brought if you know your host/hostess will drink it, and if you know what they like to drink. Don’t bring a $12 bottle of wine to a wine connoisseur. It will sit in the back of their wine cabinet for years.

Never bring dessert. Never. The host/hostess will feel obligated to put yours out and they won’t know what to do with the one they’ve made.

 

 

 

 

 

Singles ~ need emotionally mature friends

Friends 2Are your friends the ones who commiserate with you? The ones who say, “After all you’ve been through, go ahead and do that?” Whatever “that” is.

You don’t yet have a spouse to give you clear insight, balance. It’s very likely you’re not under parental direction. At this point, more than ever, you need emotionally anchored friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re never married, divorced, or a widow/widower. You need stable friends, steady friends….friends who give wise counsel.

There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother. ~ Proverbs 18:24 [New Living Translation]

friends 3

Things a true friend might say that are not easy to hear:

  • He/she’s no go for you. In fact, he/she’s plain no good.
  • Don’t be alone in a room with that woman/man. Not ever!
  • I love you, but you have to look at how much you’re drinking.
  • You’re weekends are sneaking into Monday. Better get to work on time.
  • Don’t you think you’ve carried that grudge long enough? Your obsessed with it and it’s negatively coloring your life. It seems you’re never happy anymore.
  • I know I’m a frugal fiend, but honestly, you tend to overspend. You need to pay your bills, not buy a $500 watch. Think of the credit card interest.
  • Don’t promise your child, parent, boss something when you know you can’t deliver.
  • Please don’t repeat that about Jane/Joe again. I’m sure it’s not true.
  • I respect your beliefs/politics, but they’re not mine. Let’s keep that out of the friendship. We have so many other things in common that we both enjoy.

If two or more friends have said something like this, it’s probably something worth taking a good look at…even if it’s uncomfortable.

Friends 4

Many will say they are loyal friends, but who can find one who is truly reliable? ~  (Proverbs 20:6 [New Living Translation]

 

 

 

Don’t Despise What You Have ~ craving more

Child, photographer
Your Superpower

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8 [New American Standard Bible]

If God, looking at us, started with what He had…that might not be such a bad plan of action.

We live in a disposable culture. We all know people who live their lives constantly craving the next, newer, better thing.  They have a smart phone that’s working just fine, but there are smarter ones coming out. So, they discard the one they have and get the new one. Or it’s a wide screen TV, and they get a wider screen. Or, whatever.

Many of us have been in situations where someone at work had a close friend. Then they aspire to and are in the running for a promotion to a higher position. So, they drop their old work buddy. We’ve all seen or heard of scenarios like this. I know I have.

So many seem to fall short in the appreciation department, in the areas of gratitude, reliability. I try to be kind, honorable, but of courses, like you, I’ve fallen short.

pigeon-943273_640
Your Superpower

It really gets insidious when someone looks down upon one of his/her own talents or abilities because it’s not enough, not cool, not in demand, not of high standing, doesn’t command attention. They’re looking at whoever they think are the movers and shakers, belittling themselves by comparison. This is so sad.

When young people, or even not so young people, look at reality TV stars and devalue themselves while they crave the lives and lifestyle they are watching…this is soul killing.

Fixing, hammer
Your Superpower

This is not how the Creator made us to be. It seems cliche, yet it’s still true, we are each unique. There will never be another your or me. We’ll never be replicated. We were all born with innate abilities and talents. Maybe someone made fun of yours or put yours down. So, you thought they weren’t enough…you weren’t enough.

What were your God given talents? They could be small things. Do you always fix your bed exactly so? Do you have a green thumb and the ability to grow things? Do you love color, or music, or dance…or all of those? Are you a planner? Do you make list?

Coaching
Your Superpower

These things that are innate to you and I are precious. They are part of a whole that makes up the authentic human being we are. These traits/talents/quirks can be clues to our purpose. Or they can be a vehicle to fulfilling our purpose.

I used to sometimes think, I can’t hear from God. He’s not directing my steps, so how can I know what I’m supposed to do, what my purpose or direction in this situation is supposed to be? But then I learned, a lot of the time I was making it too complicated. The answer was often in what I had in my hand. What had I already been blessed with? I needed to take care of that and value it…maybe share some of it. What was I able to do? What felt right to do? Yeah, ask that question. What’s the right thing to do? Doing that will most certainly leave me with authentic self-esteem.

I needn’t make the situation grandiose. Perhaps making a fuss wouldn’t be the best idea. Whatever I had peace about…walk into that. Just take the next step.

 

 

Our Closest Relationships ~ how we damage them

Friends 3RELATIONSHIP, perhaps one of the most important and powerful words ever.

I’m a firm believer that my relationship with God is the most important relationship I have. It’s the one that upholds everything else in my life.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18 [New American Standard Bible]

We were created to have relationships. In our society today we seem to be so isolated, lonely, even desperate. Depression seems to be epidemic. I know that in my life, building relationships with other people has been the key to happier days.

Yet, relationships are so easily damaged. Here is a list of five things (done to me, done to others, or I’ve done) that I’ve learned, from painful experience are huge NO-Nos. We could each make up our own list, and in fact, that’s a great idea. Make your personal list. Here’s mine.

1. Don’t take loved ones for granted and stop putting in effort. Don’t think they’ll always be there. For one reason or another, one day they won’t. Don’t stop treating them like they’re special. Don’t forget birthdays, anniversaries, school events and other occasions, family celebrations.

2. Don’t demean your loved one/friend in public. Don’t show greater respect to someone of higher status, of greater wealth, or who is just plain flashy…when that person will mean nothing to you in the long term and will have little impact on your life. Don’t constantly correct your loved one in public (or in private, for that matter).

3. Don’t constantly show you can do things better than your loved one. When your spouse, child, sibling, parent, friend washes the dishes, don’t pick up the water glasses, inspecting for spots and then begin to wash them over. This is an example. Anything in this vein is an insult.

horse laughing

4. Don’t engage in negative joking and banter, as a practice, with the ones you love. Have you noticed on reality TV these days the couples and/or family members are constantly belittling each other in the form of a joke? This is not good. This is hurtful. Because we are bombarded by this type of behavior on TV, doesn’t make is a healthy thing to do in our relationships. Habitual put-down jokes are very destructive.

5. Don’t lie…don’t sneak…and don’t cheat. Self-explanatory. Self-evident.

Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. ~ Luke 6:31 [New American Standard Bible]

 

 

A New Year! Are You Enough Without Him? ~ widowhood

2017-2018, femaleI recently had to decide whether to purchase an extended warranty for my husband’s car, which I now drive. I called an umpteen number of people asking their advice on extended warranties. I stressed and called a few more people. I prayed about it and stressed some more. In the end, I had to make the decision alone. Just me.

Disclaimer: Widows aren’t the only women who have to make important life decisions alone. Divorced women do and so do single women.

Disclaimer #2: Not all widows have ultra-loving feelings toward their deceased husbands. Some husbands were serial lotharios, abusive, gamblers, alcoholic or drug addicted. In many cases it’s complicated. He was overbearing, but a good provider. He wasn’t romantic or complimentary but was an excellent father.

My friend Carol, who moved to the west coast, adored Richard, her second husband. However, when he got extremely ill, he became difficult. As his physicality worsened, so did his mental capacity and he said mean things to her. Ten years older than me, and having lived in NYC most of her life where she took public transportation, she didn’t drive. Living near Seattle at that time, she called a taxi and went to the hospital almost every day to be with him. When she returned home, she usually phoned me. Being a blunt Brooklynite, she’d often shout something like this: “I’m gonna kill him if he doesn’t die first.” When Richard passed, the stress of his illness was forgotten. As far as she was concerned he was the best man who had ever walked the earth. She is also gone now, and I miss her terribly.

Whether the marriage was a dream come true, or something much more complex, when he dies, the wife is alone. She may find she’s now a fifth wheel when in the company of other couples they had socialized with. The company of other widows and single women can be a blessing. Within a posse of women without men, you can more comfortably say krazy-widow things and confess to having freaky-widow feelings.

Entering a new year can be difficult for women who are alone. Hanging a new calendar on the wall or opening a new datebook only reminds them how forlorn they sometimes feel. Those feelings of desolation are much worse for a widow than for a divorced woman whose husband is still running around (pun intended). No matter how wonderful or ignoble her husband was, he is no more. She can’t hold him, hug him, laugh with him, or argue with him, as the case may be.

Still, it is a new year and getting through it will be much easier with gal-pals. I feel more than blessed to have found a group of Christian women friends who are joyous. Laughing is the norm in our get-togethers. Upon learning Logan’s Steakhouse had power after Hurrican Irma knocked out electric for three days, Lynn, Charlotte, her daughter and I cracked sweaty-body jokes and laughed so hard other diners stared at us. We were so grateful just to get a cooked meal. Okay, they’re not simply joyous, they’re as nutty as I am. Let me tell you, when you’re a widow, zany friends are good, very good. Laughter breaks through the solitude and there’s lots of solitude. So, widows, get yourselves some fun-loving, single women friends. It’ll do you good.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. ~ Proverbs 17:22 [KJV]

 

 

A Ladies’ Thanksgiving ~ ab fab

 

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L to R: Moi w/Sophie the Wonder Dog, Charlotte Woods Innes, Lynn Woods Rix who writes as Dalyn Woods

 

Friendship is so important at any age but is extremely important for the over-50 crowd. I found myself alone in Florida after my husband passed away, but not-to-worry, I was swept up by a group of Christian ladies who like to get out and get going.

I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with three of these gals. We gathered at my dear friend Deborah William’s house. I arrived early to help Deborah cook the turkey, her first time cooking one.

Each lady brought one or more traditional dishes. I wish I had a photo from last night of Deborah, but I do have one of Lynn Woods Rix and her sister Charlotte Woods Innes. We’re standing in front of one of Deborah’s three beautifully decorated Christmas trees.