As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this home on the edge of town, this family, this neighborhood—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 31 ~ Final Thoughts}

And so we have come to the last of these thirty-one days. Thirty-one days to think about celebrations
and the part that they play in our lives.

I hope that you have come away with some new ideas to use in your own celebrations. But most of all, I hope that you have renewed vision for what a celebration can be...not just a meaningless exercise in having fun, but a joyful occasion of grateful praise!

I also hope that you will make time to celebrate. I know that we are busy...busy making a living, busy raising a family, busy keeping a house, busy in a myriad of ways. But I think that it is important to celebrate. Celebrate in a big way or a small way. Celebrate a birthday with a big bash, or with a simple meal. Celebrate an anniversary with a getaway, or with a card and a kiss. Celebrate a major milestone of graduation or a wedding. Celebrate a first tooth or a loose tooth. Celebrate a friendship with an outing, or a phone call. Celebrate His provision. Celebrate the first day of school, and the last day of school. Celebrate the end of something unpleasant. Celebrate a new beginning. Celebrate the loss of 5 pounds. Celebrate the memory of a life lived for the Savior. Celebrate family. Celebrate the first day of spring, or the first frost. Celebrate the big days. Celebrate an ordinary day. Celebrate an answered prayer. Raise an Ebenezer.

Always with gratitude. Always acknowledging a loving Father. 

Because thou hast been my help, 
therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. 
Psalm 63:7

This is Day 31, the final day, in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 30 ~ Turning the Calendar...}

I told you that we are a family of celebrators. Do you know that we even make a celebration of sorts at the end of each month as we turn over the calendar page? We do! 

As I pull the calendar from its wooden frame, we say "good-bye" to the month and all it held, noting the birthdays, milestones, trips, holidays, visitors, parties...any memorable event. Then I turn over the page to the next month and we anticipate the special moments that are in store, naming ones that we know in advance. 

It's the simplest of celebrations, but it's how we "mark the occasion." 

Here at my blog this year, I began a new way to commemorate the moments in a month. In February, I made a few collages of the highlights, and I found that I liked the way it caused me to reflect. Thus began a little ritual of collecting the moments and making a record. And as I look back over the month, I can always say, "Thus far the Lord has helped us." 

(If you'd like to take a peek, they're here...February, March, April, May, June, July, August, and September.)

Again this monththis month of 31 days and lots of talking and lots of thinking and living and joy and sorrowI'd like to collect some of the moments.

October was a month when I lived out the whole idea of celebration as "marking an occasion with gratitude and joy." As I told you in ~this post~, our family was touched by death, by illness, and by struggle. We have also experienced the joy of family, the joy of friendship, and the joy of fellowship. Most of all, we have known Him who is Faithful, and our hearts are grateful for His merciful care in our lives. 

For the Lord is good; 
His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.
Psalm 100:5

This is Day 30 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 29 ~ Simplify}

I don't know about you, but I find it easy to go over the top when celebrating.

I want to do it all

I enjoy decorating, so I want my home to be festooned for whatever holiday or season we're celebrating. I also enjoy cooking, so I want to create a wonderful holiday meal or party menu, even better if it is beautiful or filled with memories. I enjoy traditions...and so do the others in my family, so we may have a list a mile long of all the things we want to do! 

But trying to do it all can lead to stress...even if it is joyful stress! (Can anyone relate to that absurd dichotomy of emotions?)

One way that I have found to rein in my celebrating self is this:

Choose one or two elements that are important to the celebration.

It is best to get input from the other members of the family. I'll ask, "What is most important for you in this celebration?"
What one event do you want to participate in?
What's the one gift you'd like to receive for your birthday?
Name one cookie that you can't live without this Christmas?
What tradition (or a couple of traditions) is something that you definitely want to keep?

Then you have discovered what is most meaningful.

Oh, you can always add something back in if time or energy, finances or enthusiasm allows. But then you will have ensured that the important is included.

Because it is not about "over the top." 

This is Day 29 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Monday, October 28, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 28 ~ Celebrating With Family Recipes}

One way to keep special family memories alive is to use family recipes in your celebrations.

When my mom brings cheese-stuffed celery sticks to Thanksgiving dinner every year ("because my grandmother always made these"), or when my girls make "boiled cookies" for Ron's birthday, or when Kati takes a coconut cake to the Christmas party for Ron's side of the family, it demonstrates the significance of family food traditions.

As long as I can remember, my mom has been making sugar cookies for Christmas. They are sweet and buttery and decorated with red and green sprinkles, and is it okay to think that they are better than any sugar cookie ever? I think it. Every year, Mom brings these wonders to our Christmas gathering, and she also brings a small package of them to my sister and to me. 

Last Christmas, I told Mom that I had never made these cookies, because they were her domain. She insisted that not only would she not mind, but she would love to turn these over to me! So this year, I will be venturing into the business of making THE sugar cookies. 

(Of course, Mom makes the best potato salad and cole slaw too, but those will stay in her domain. For one thing, there would be mutiny...) 

In family lore, Ron's grandmother is famous for her banana pudding. I hear that she made a huge bowl of it when family was coming, and that it would feed a crowd. I don't have her recipe, but I made banana pudding (from scratch, as I imagined that she would have) one year for Ron on Father's Day. 

A few weeks later I made a bowl for Ron's dad for his birthday. In a little over a week, he had passed away, and I was glad that I had favored him with a good memory of his mother.

I have a yummy sloppy joe recipe from my Great Aunt Minerva. She cooked this for Ron and me when we visited her as newlyweds, and she shared the recipe with me. 

I served Aunt Minerva's sloppy joes at a family party to welcome my youngest granddaughter Alaine. I have also cooked them for several informal suppers with friends. 

When I reorganized my recipes a few years ago, I decided to add a few photos of loved ones beside their recipes. It's a pathway to memory, not only for me, but hopefully one day for my children and grandchildren.

Do you have specific foods or recipes associated with certain family members? Do you incorporate family recipes into your celebrations?

This is Day 28 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 27 ~ "How Great a Debtor"}

When I consider His great grace...
    (amazing grace that I could never, ever earn)

When I realize that I am a debtor and that He has paid my debts...
     (I owed so much and He has paid it all!)

When I ponder His marvelous goodness...
     (and it is marvelous for He IS good)

How could I not celebrate?

One more rendition of the beautiful hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"...

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing   (lyrics by Robert Robinson)

 Come thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace; 
 Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. 
 Teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. 
 Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it, mount of thy redeeming love. 

 Here I raise mine Ebenezer; hither by thy help I'm come; 
 And I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home. 
 Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God; 
 He, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood. 

 O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! 
 Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee. 
 Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; 
 Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. 

This is Day 27 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 26 ~ Party Games for Young and Old}

Games are a great way to break the ice, involve all of your guests, and create a little excitement at your celebration! Of course, you can have a great party without any games, but if you're up to the challenge, here are some ideas.

Games for the young...

We have a few standards that we use for children's parties, although we have been known to add a twist!

~ Bingo

One year when Kati was a little girl, I got ambitious and made my own Birthday Bingo cards. It took some time to draw and color in all those cards, so I decided to have them laminated so that I could reuse them at another party. I took them to a copy store to have them laminated, but when they gave me the total, I nearly choked!  Eleven dollars and some odd cents!  "Ack," I wailed, "I could have bought two or three bingo games for that price!"

Sticker shock notwithstanding, we have used that Birthday Bingo game at so many parties through the years, that I think it may have cost mere pennies per game! We have played it at birthday parties for Kati and then Bekah. We have played it at adult birthday parties to entertain the children. Even my grandchildren have used it at their own parties. It is a crowd favorite and often the children ask to play it over and over.

There are also variations on bingo if you don't mind investing the time to custom make your boards. A couple of years ago, the girls made a "Barbie Bingo" for Bekah's vintage Barbie party. They found images via Google search and pasted them to a table in our word processing program, then printed them out on pink cardstock.

~ Musical Chairs/Hot Potato

Both of these games are "elimination" games. If you're without a chair, you're out...or if you're caught with the hot potato, you're out. But after a few parties where little eliminated guests ended up in tears, I tweaked the rules. In the new version, as each child is eliminated, he or she gets to pick a treat (candy or some small prize) from the basket! Then they're usually content to watch the rest of the game while they lick their lollipop or play with their prize. Win-win. 

You can vary these games easily to fit your party theme. At my grandchildren's "dress-up" birthday party this summer, we played Musical Hats, where the children put a series of hats on their heads until the music stopped. After each round, a hat was removed from circulation. At Bekah's Cinderella party, the "hot potato" was a glass (okay, plastic) slipper. 

~ Pin the Tail

Another traditional game that can be customized is Pin the Tail on the Donkey. We do have an actual donkey game, but most often we have used a variation. I bought a "Pin the Hat on the Turkey" game at Target's Dollar Spot a few years ago, and it makes a return every Thanksgiving. Kristin's children have made their own variations at the last two birthday parties for their family, the most recent being "Pin the Eye on Mike Wazowski" (à la Monsters, Inc.). Gotta love it!

Games for the Old Not-So-Young...

We like to provide some grown-up fun if the guest of honor is an adult. These games are usually of the "pencil and paper" variety. (Of course, the not-so-young join in the young ones' games, and the children try the "pencil and paper" ones too!)

~ Little Known Facts

Before the party, gather one or two facts about each guest that the rest may not know. Type them up (or just read them aloud) and have everyone try to match facts with folks. It's fun to learn new things about your friends and family!

As a variation, we have made a collection of facts when there are multiple guests of honor (as in our annual triple birthday celebration) and had people guess which of the honorees each statement was describing.

We had great fun one Father's Day with a list of quotes from all the fathers represented. These were hilarious! "It's a circus in here!" "You're a bird." "It's 3,043 miles from here to Sacramento, California." "Every day is Children's Day."   It wasn't too hard to figure out who had said what!

~ True-False

Make up a list of statements about the guest of honor, some of which are true, some false. After everyone has recorded their guesses, read each one aloud and let the guest of honor reveal the answers. (Kati's favorite subject is math. Kati is an early bird.)

~ Trivia

Compile a list of trivia questions based on the year of birth, or the age of the birthday person. (Who was President in 1937? What musical featured the song "Seventy-Six Trombones"?)

Sometimes you can find a trivia style party game online. We chose some ideas from ~this list~ to make a Name That Candy quiz.

~ The Dating Game

This is a fun one to play at an anniversary or engagement party...if your guests are good sports! (We don't want to cause any marital disharmony at an anniversary party!) Compile a list of 4 or 5 questions for the women to answer about the men, and another 4 or 5 for the men to answer about the women. (What kind of car did your husband drive when you first started dating? What is your favorite meal that your wife cooks for you?)  

~ Games with Holiday Themes

Print a list of the second line of a Christmas carol. Have partiers name the carol.

Give everyone a slip of paper with a Christmas song written on it. Have all the guests hum or whistle the tune (no words!) to find the others who have the same song. The first group to find one another in the cacophony wins a small prize.

Games don't have to be complicated to be fun. Sometimes the old standards are the best. Know your group, don't insist that the reluctant guests play, and keep the mood light.

What are your favorite party games? Do you like to play games at parties?

This is Day 26 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Friday, October 25, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 25 ~ Celebrating Marriage}

During the first year of our marriage, we celebrated every month!  On the 19th of each month, I tried to make a special meal and we'd eat by candlelight.  Ron's work schedule sometimes meant we had to wait for the weekend, but we did our best. Those first months were exciting!

On our first anniversary, we unwrapped the top layer of our wedding cake and reminisced. We also wondered who in the world started that tradition  because that slice of wedding cake was not the yummy treat we had imagined. We dreamed, and thought that maybe we'd go on a cruise for our 10th anniversary.

On our second anniversary, I was in the hospital with a one-day-old baby girl!

Over the years, we have celebrated our anniversary in many different ways, most of them simple. (Our celebrations were often dictated by our finances!) 

Most of the time, we went out for dinner. Occasionally, we'd just exchange cards. (And to be totally honest here, there were anniversaries when only one card was given, because Ron one of us forgot to buy a card. Oops.)

On our 10th anniversary, I kidnapped my husband! I arranged for the kids to stay with my parents. I called the man for whom Ron was doing a side job to let him know that Ron would not be working that Saturday. I packed an overnight bag for both of us. And after we ate our anniversary dinner at a seafood restaurant, I told him that I'd be driving and I whisked him off to the town (and the same motel) where we had spent our first night together. (We didn't have the money to go on a cruise, but it didn't matter.)

On our 15th anniversary, I was pregnant with Kati. That summer we had central air installed in the downstairs of our farmhouse (hot, emotional pregnant mama), and we joked that we didn't even have enough money left to ride the paddle boats at the city park! Not quite true, but I didn't really want to ride the paddle boats.

On our 20th anniversary, Ron had intended to surprise me with a new wedding band and a one-day cruise. We would drive to meet the boat, where we'd cruise to an island for the day. But my dad had heart bypass surgery and the cruise was cancelled. (I loved the wedding band, though!)

On our 25th anniversary, Kristin and Ryan, assisted by Mom, gave us a surprise anniversary party! It was a delightful day of celebrating with family and friends.

I have told you about our recent 35th anniversary getaway. It was a relaxing, meaningful time spent together. We can hardly believe we've been married for 35 years!

(Guess what? We don't even want to go on a cruise anymore. Really!) 

So what was the purpose of my taking you on this little trip through time?

There are so many ways to celebrate a wedding anniversary...big and small, simple and lavish, expensive and inexpensive, private or with family or friends. I don't think it really matters so much how we celebrate.

I think what really matters is that we honor marriage.

That we take the time to say "you are important to me" in a hundred little ways.

That we allow Christ to be seen in us as we live out the picture of Christ and His Church. "This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church." (Ephesians 5:32 NKJV)

CeLeBRaTion Tip of the Day: 
Celebrate the fact that God can take two flawed human beings and make them into a picture of Christ and His Church! Amazing!

This is Day 25 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 24 ~ Something Old, Something New}

There is something valuable about including both old and new elements in our celebrations.

I love the old. The traditional. The tried-and-true. The passed-down-through-a-family. 

I love that we have Christmas Morning Casserole every Christmas morning...and crock pot oatmeal (even though only three people eat it) and Mom's orange rolls (swoon) and fruit salad. Every year. And I love that we have the same schedule of activities beginning at 7 am when Mom and Daddy come to watch the girls open their gifts, through the comings-and-goings of the day, all the way to Christmas evening when the four of us tidy up and talk about the day and Ron falls asleep in his recliner while we're still talking.

I love that we have Thanksgiving traditions the whole month of November. I love that we always have a planning session for our Thanksgiving meal and then we all make the same things we always make and we like it that way. I love that we sing a Thanksgiving hymn before we ask the blessing. 

I love that there are deviled eggs for Resurrection Sunday (although one year our deviled eggs got a new name) and a chocolate egg hunt for the children. 

But sometimes there is room for something new. 

And the "something new" can be very good.

Like last year when we learned that our faraway family was going to be coming for Thanksgiving...for the first time in six years! We altered our traditional Thanksgiving weekend plans and didn't mind at all. It was good. So very good.

Like our decision to make a little getaway to celebrate our anniversary this year instead of our usual dinner-for-two. It was good. (So good that we might do it again next year.)

Like Bekah's Resurrection Garden table centerpiece that she made this year, even though I insisted we did not have time to add another project and we didn't even have the materials. But she was inspired and she gathered her supplies and made substitutions and it turned out beautifully and we were happy that she tried this something new. It was a good addition. 

Meaningful celebrations are often a blend of the old and the new. 

This is Day 24 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 23 ~ Celebrating a New Year}

Photo by Bekah
Over the thirty-five years we have been married, we have celebrated the coming of a New Year in many different ways. Some years we have gone to gatherings; some years we have hosted them. Sometimes we have had another family over for the evening. Some years Kristin's family has joined us for an early dinner and some games (or dancing to Grooveshark requests by the grands!). Some years we have gone to a New Year's Eve service. Sometimes, we have just gone to bed early and welcomed the New Year in the morning. 

But there is one tradition that is consistent in our celebration of a new year. 

For many years now, our family has made a list of the past year's highlights. We record births and deaths and major events, but we also include vacations, lost teeth, and room remodels. Basically, we record anything that seems significant to any family member.

As much as I like to celebrate, I think that there needs to be some quiet time surrounding the arrival of a new year...a time to reflect on the time that has passed, and a time to consider what the Lord would have for us in the year to come. Moments for contemplation. 

Compiling this list of blessings, accomplishments, sorrows, and growth provides a framework for reflection. 

The list becomes an Ebenezer. "Thus far the Lord has helped us." 

This is Day 23 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 22 ~ Party Planning Inspiration}

There are everyday celebrations which are simple and require little or no planning. (The Pie Party is just one example.) 

And there are big hairy deal, once-in-a-lifetime occasions that require lots of planning. (A wedding might be one of those occasions.)

Most of my celebrations fall somewhere in between. I might plan a birthday party, or a holiday gathering, or a casual dinner party.

Generally, I think a simple celebration is best (even if some of our parties turn out a bit...hmmm...not quite simple?). But often what inspires me is a big surprise...even to me! My party inspiration comes from many different sources.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Inspiration could be a package of napkins.

Have I told you about my obsession with napkins? I have a blue million packages in my party cabinet. Why do great napkins always find me?! 

A package of sunny yellow napkins inspired my table centerpiece and the dessert for the ladies' game night I hosted last spring. (See ~here~.)

A (partial) package of blue napkins inspired the table decor for Resurrection Sunday. (You can read about it ~here~.)

Napkins and plates inspired the party theme for one of our triple birthday celebrations. (You can read about that ~here~.)

Inspiration could spring from a theme.

When Bekah had a sudden desire to have a French theme for her 10th birthday party, the wheels started spinning in my mind and the party just grew from there. (You can visit her oh là là party ~here~.)

A box of vintage Barbie stand-up cards were the theme inspiration for another birthday party. (Visit the vintage Barbie party ~here~.)

One Father's Day, a nautical theme was the springboard for our Father's Day celebration. Then we scoured Pinterest for some maritime ideas and off we sailed. (Sail with us ~here~.) The very next year, my mom found some paper plates with an anchor emblem, and off we sailed again! (More nautical design ~here~.) 

Basically, inspiration can come from almost anything if you encourage your party brain!

Can you believe that a full-fledged birthday party grew from some "Perles de Sucre Bleues"? Gammy picked these up for Bekah one summer, and her (April) birthday party was planned with them in mind. Of course, knowing the "bleu" theme was anticipated, I picked up some glittery blue butterfly Christmas tree January, for 25 cents each! (See the Perles de Sucre Bleues in all their party glory ~here~.)

A clip art page in a Martha Stewart Living magazine inspired a theme for a Mother's Day celebration. I printed a set of these vintage strawberry recipe cards for each mother, decorated with strawberries, and served a strawberry dessert. (No pictures of this "before blogging" celebration.)

~ source ~

Pinterest can spark party inspiration. Magazines showcase creative ideas. A party store...Target's clearance shelf or Dollar Spot...other bloggers... 

If you learn to look with party eyes, you'll be surprised at what inspires you! 

And your celebrations will be uniquely you!

P.S. Don't stress! A party can be a wonderful celebration without coordinating colors or a fabulous theme. Remember the focus!

This is Day 22 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

Monday, October 21, 2013

CeLeBRaTe!! {Day 21 ~ The Pie Party}

Celebrations (marking occasions) are not always the "biggies" like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or holidays.

Sometimes a celebration can appear ordinary on the surface, but underneath, it is a grand celebration of friendship, of family, of fellowship. 

~ Like when Joanne and I go out for "mama coffee" and talk and linger and laugh till we cry...for hours

~ Like when my mom and sister and various and sundry daughters go on our annual Christmas shopping trip or get together for lunch.

~ Like Sunday afternoons with family.

~ Like an "everybody bring something" soup lunch with our church family. 

~ Like the Pie Party.  

Every Sunday evening, there is a Pie Party down the road at my mother-in-law's house. 

One day, almost a year ago now, my sister-in-law made a sweet potato pie and some of the family gathered at Mom's house to share it. 

That was the beginning of the Pie Party.

There isn't always pie.

Sometimes there is coffee cake, sometimes apple crisp, sometimes coconut cake. Sometimes the treats are home baked. Sometimes they are from Sam's Club.

It's a "come as you are" affair. It's a "come if you're free tonight" kind of party.

Mom always makes coffee. She surprises us with the vast variety of mugs in her cache. And with the variety of tablecloths. (Some could now be considered "vintage"!). 

There may be a few around the table. Or we may have to bring the kitchen chairs into the dining room.

Always there is talking, lots of talking. And laughter. 

Connection between a mother and her children. Between brothers and sisters. Between grandmother and grandchildren. Between aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews.

The Pie Party is a celebration of family. 

What are some everyday occasions that you celebrate?

This is Day 21 in the series CeLeBRaTe!!  Click ~here~ to see more.

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