Last Day of 2011 & Christmas Reflections

Saturday, December 31, 2011

As this last day of 2011 comes to a close in about 5 hours, I have been reflecting as most of us do when a new year rolls around. The same thing is going on over on Beth Moore's Blog, and I also loved the post on the InCourage blog with 20 Questions for Reflection by Tsh Oxenreider

Christmas...I am blessed with a job in our local school system and the office closes for the last 2 weeks of the year which gives me a great Christmas break.  I've been extra busy but have enjoyed every moment.  Here are a few pictures for my memories on this blog...

I don't do a whole lot of Christmas decorating - just the mantle,
our tree and some wreaths outside on the doors and windows.

This ornament is very special to me. 
Our First Christmas as Husband and Wife - 1977

Our Three Beautiful Grandchildren
Christmas with grandchildren in the home changes everything for the better.

Our 2011 Christmas Tree
I love a lot of lights on the tree - this one had 400 clear lights
and 900 festive colored lights. It was beautiful.

Our delightful 14th Annual Women's Ministry Christmas Brunch speaker
Leah Adams of The Point Ministries

 Our awesome Church Choir and orchestra's Christmas program
was the most worshipful ever this year.
One of my most favorite things in the
entire universe is singing in this choir!

Most Christmas lights I've ever seen - near downtown Perry, GA 

Sweet time reminiscing memories of family and friends as I
mailed Christmas cards this year...

My mom and sisters and I on our trip to Atlanta last week to
see Amy Grant & Vince Gill at the Fabulous Fox Theatre!
Sweet time with memories made.

One of my favorite Christmas coffee mugs!

Collards are still in my garden,
 I picked these at 3:30 and we ate them for supper at 6:00
Now that is FRESH!

Jalepeno Cornbread for the collards - so good.

GRAN JAN'S JOY in babysitting this sweet grandboy while my
son and his wife finished Christmas shopping (for him). 

 Santa is a member of my church (he really is). 
And I was so glad he was able to be there Christmas morning.

C-   Counselor
H-   Holy One
R-   Redeemer
I-    I AM
S-   Shepherd
T-  Teacher
M-  Mediator
A-  Almighty
S-  Savior

Ready for 2012 and all that our Almighty God has in store. He has been Faithful and True to me with abundant Grace and Mercy in 2011.  I love Him so.

1,000 GIFTS, #427 to #443

Monday, December 12, 2011

So many times on this journey to 1,000 gifts I am reminded of the old hymn "Count Your Blessings." I've heard it and sang it so many times in church with my husband leading in worship. I've been in church services when people would testify of His blessings. So really this counting is not a new thing, but a great discipline of old. The chorus of the hymn says:
Count your blessings,
Name them one by one
Count your many blessings,
See what God has done.

Soooooooooooooooooo, here i go, almost half-way there!
427.  Since my post almost a month ago I celebrated my birthday on November 16. I'm thankful for all the cards and gifts and wonderful birthday messages on Facebook. I really was overwhelmed with love. I'm thankful for LIFE.

428.  Birthday flowers from my husband (roses), and my sweet friend and partner in women's ministry, Cindy (fall bouquet). The colors were vivid and brought me so much JOY. Our Creator God sure makes beautiful flowers.

429. Thanksgiving. Next to Easter, it is my favorite holiday because it is "uncluttered." Family, food, fellowship, and exactly what this post is about - BLESSINGS. This picture says it everywhere. It was a great year because EVERYONE was around the table. That in itself is a gift of His grace.

430. My dad loves our homeplace and is so proud of this new sign at his driveway. Double M Farm Road. Watching him enjoy life brings me great joy. I love my parents. They celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on November 23rd. Grace.

431. Planting pansies is one of my many fall delights. I love to plant the little violas in my strawberry jar. Another JOY from our marvelous Creator. Flowers in COLD weather!

432. While outside enjoying my gardening day, I had quite an audience.

433. A week off for Thanksgiving. It was the best week I've had in a long time. It began with a visit to see my amazing mother-in-law, included time with my grandchildren, my whole family around my table, time in the garden and in the sewing room, and the PEACE and JOY of awaiting our new pastor's arrival!

434. My church's women's ministry has an annual Christmas Brunch and this year we had an amazing speaker - Leah Adams of Point Ministries.  God has given her a message about leaving a Godly legacy. She brought a word from THE WORD and is a delightful woman. I am very thankful for her life and ministry. God is using her and did I mention that she is delightful?

435. This sweet woman is my Merle Norman lady. I love Mrs. Sarah. Isn't she beautiful? Thank you Mrs. Gayle for sending me this picture from the Christmas Brunch. I thank God for the women He has brought into my life to encourage and mentor me in the faith. My heart's desire is to do the same for the women He brings in my life.

436. A combination Birthday/Christmas/Valentine's/Groundhog Day/Anniversary/Fourth of July/Memorial Day, etc. etc. gift. A new embroidery machine for my sewing DELIGHTS. This is my sewing room happy place. The new machine is on the left.

437. Because of #436, I can now make my own labels for my quilts (this is the first one I made and it is for a Christmas table runner I quilted). I really look forward to making personalized gifts for my grandchildren too. I have much to learn but am enjoying every minute. My friend Lanie has been so much help to me.

438. My baby boy with his baby boy. JOY. They are clones. I love this picture and their similar expressions...

439. God sent us the prettiest, brightest, largest, fullest, and most delightful RAINBOW I have ever laid my eyes on. It even made the local news. I pulled off the road 3 times on my drive home from work to just delight in it's beauty and to praise and thank my COVENANT KEEPING GOD.

440. I babysat my oldest son's children one night a couple of weeks ago so he and his wife could attend an event for Dr. Johnny Hunt. Out of the blue, this little fellow looked up and said to me, "Gran Jan, we don't pray to kings...we only pray to God." I actually took this picture right after he shared that WISDOM with Gran Jan. He is three years old and is the inspiration for my blog. I love you Zeke.

441. DAILY GRACE. One of my many favorite hymns is ""Come Thou Fount" I especially love this line because in the busyness of life as wife, mom, Gran Jan, daughter, sister, friend, employee, choir member, women's ministry leader, I am prone to WANDER. Sweet Jesus keep my heart centered on You.

442. I love my front porch swing and it now has a fresh coat of red paint. Red is my favorite color and my sweet husband painted it for me. He also surprised me one night last week with supper ON THE TABLE when I came home from work. He is the kindest and most generous man I know and he is mine.

443. This precious red-bowed beauty is my granddaughter Madie. She is sweeter than Georgia sweet tea. She is starting to "talk up a storm" as we say in the South. We were making reindeer cookies. She was putting Rudolph's red M&M nose in place. Here is a link to making these reindeer cookies from Southern Living. Easy and fun.

Next week is going to be all about CHRISTMAS and I cannot wait to share gifts of the season. If you're prone to wander, may God bind your wandering heart to Himself and may you intentionally seek quiet moments every day to reflect on the JOY of His coming to this Earth to redeem your soul.

Beth Moore's Gravy Recipe

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beth Moore is not only a great writer, Bible teacher, (and wife, mother and grandmother), the woman can cook. In her words she claims not to be "stellar," but rather just a good country cook.  Well...those kinds of cooks are my favorite. My Granny and my parents are both great cooks. I'm a good cook myself - based on what my family tells me, and their estimation is all that matters to me.  In fact, my husband often says, "that was a feast" and it has become a family saying that especially tickles my daughter-in-law Erin.

Anyway, Beth wrote a great post on her blog this week about "Holiday Cooking Hints" and she and I had talked earlier in the day about doing a tutorial next year. How FUN! Go here for the complete post  with lots of great recipes and great ideas. Siestaville is the best blog community anywhere.  Following is her gravy recipe taken from the blog post:

Beth Moore's Gravy Recipe

Now, for a few gravy hints. The drippings to a turkey are absolutely divine. After you’ve let the bird cool off enough to work with the drippings, tear open your roasting bag and use a cup or ladle to pour a generous amount into a measuring cup exactly like this:
See how the spout is at the bottom? The fattest part of the liquid will rise to the top after just a few minutes. You only want to use the bottom part to make your gravy or it’s too greasy. Set the filled measuring cup to the side until it’s time to make your gravy. Do you girls have iron skillets? They are best for making gravy but not imperative. You want it to be one of the last things you do before serving your meal. I’m going to tell you how to do basic gravy rather than giblet gravy so you’ll know how to make it from any roast whether beef, pork, or bird. I’ll leave giblet gravy to one of the other cooks on here.

Go back to your measuring cup of drippings. Pour that lower (less fat) half of your liquid in a skillet. Heat it up to a rolling boil. Depending on how much liquid you have in your skillet, put about a heaping tablespoon of flour (not into your pan yet!) into about a fourth cup of warm water and stir it up really well until the lumps are out. While the liquid in your skillet boils, pour in the flour mixture and stir constantly for at least several minutes. After it’s well mixed, decrease your heat to a low boil. Add some salt and pepper if the liquid needs it. (You can’t be afraid to taste it in process or it won’t be well seasoned.) The liquid in the skillet will all begin to thicken. Keep it boiling until it looks like gravy. Grin. And add some water – just a little at a time – until it has the consistency you’re looking for. Especially with any of my bird-gravies (chicken or turkey), I like to add no more than a dime-size of this:
It simply adds a little color. For those of you with access to a Williams Sonoma, however, this is absolutely FABULOUS (this is the only thing on here today you can’t get from a regular grocery store):

I pray you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by loved ones and that you take the time to truly give thanks to our Great God for His goodness to us.  This past Sunday night at my church our interim pastor, Joel Southerland, actually had us physically write down our blessings. Since I've been "counting to 1,000" with Ann Voskamp on Multitude Mondays that was near and dear to my heart. I'll be sharing my list soon. 

Happy Gravy Making!

Meet My New Pastor!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Praising God this Thanksgiving Week from Whom ALL Blessings Flow!

Ephesians 3:20-21
20   Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly
 abundantly above all that we ask or think,
according to the power that works in us,
21   to Him be glory in the church
by Christ Jesus to all generations
forever and ever. Amen.

My home church (Second Baptist Church) has a new pastor and he will begin his ministry on January 1, 2012. Our wonderful Pastor Search Team sought the heart of God for our church and we have supported them in prayer. This video below is how the team presented the pastor to our church. (It was created by a very talented young woman, Mrs. Brooke Hering. Thank you Brooke for sharing your work with me for my blog.)

God is blessing us exceedingly abundantly above all that we could have asked (and we did ask in much prayer). My new pastor's name is Dr. Jim Perdue, his wife is Stephanie and they have four precious children, two sons and two daughters. Jim grew up at our church and he is coming home after being gone away to college, seminary, marrying and having a family, and pastoring. I am especially thankful to God for His mercy and love. His timing is His timing and it is always right and always for our good and His glory. 

1,000 GIFTS, #409 to #426

Monday, November 14, 2011

My heart is as near to overflowing these days as it has ever been - aside from my salvation day, my wedding day, my sons' births and weddings, and the days my grandchildren were born---I am full of praise and thanksgiving to the Good LORD for His unmerited grace and tender mercies to me these recent days.

409. I'm starting my list today with the blessed news that my church has a new pastor, Dr. Jim Perdue, and he will begin his ministry at our church on January 1, 2012. He has a lovely wife and four beautiful children. He grew up in our church and is now coming home after getting his seminary education and pastoring the past 10 or so years. HE LOVES US! What a season we endured prior to his coming - God has surely been my Shield, Defense, Strong Tower, Refuge, and my Best Friend. Thank you JESUS! The timing is just God as we approach the season of Thanksgiving. I am most humbly thankful.

410. Fall is my favorite season. I praise God for His gifts of seasons to enjoy. The color this year has been spectacular. 

411. I received a voice mail last week from a young woman named Fran that blessed my heart in the deepest places. She loves Jesus and is in the "zone" raising 3 young men. Her desire is to live a life that counts and she is so much FUN! We are "siestas" which is an affectionate term for members of the Living Proof Ministries blog community. It is the most genuine, caring group of believers ever. Right siestas?  Thank you Fran for encouraging me on every level. You know I love you and I'm here for you.

412. Following these wonderful young women as they journeyed to Ecuador on a Compassion bloggers trip. Sophie, Melanie, Ann, Amanda, Kelly.  You bless me!
Compassion Bloggers: Ecuador 2011

413. I attended a fundraising banquet last week for Covenant Care Ministries, an adoption agency that places children in two-parent Christian homes. The speaker talked about everyone's adoption we are adopted into the family of God by the provision of Christ's death on the cross. Hallelujah and Amen.

414. My two oldest grandchildren go to Mother's Morning Out twice weekly at their church. Last week the firetruck came.  Oh the JOY! My grandboy is on the front row and is seated - far left. Everything to Zeke is "so fun."

415. My daughter-in-law Erin really loves to bake and she's very good at it - actually I think she's quite good at everything she does. Check out her cake against the cover of the October Southern Living Magazine.  I told you she was good!

416. My dad is a retired Marine Captain and Vietnam War veteran. I am so proud of him. He has always worked hard and provided for our family. He loves this country and we fly the flags here at our farm every day of the year - but this past Veterans Day, 11-11-11, they seemed extra bright against the blue November sky.

417. Captain Tom, my father. I love him.

418. I've made quilts for each of my 3 grandchildren for Christmas gifts. These are the labels I will sew on the back of the quilts for Zeke and Madie Ruth.

419. In my father's footsteps, and in his boots. This is my youngest grandboy wearing my son's boots.  Couldn't you just squeeze him?

420. There is a song on Travis Cottrell's latest CD that is entitled "Thanks Be To Our God."  That song has been used of God to minister to my soul - I'm talking every single time I hear it. It is anointed. I'm so grateful.  Reference #409. "For the road that leads from darkness into light...for the hope that rescues us from endless night..."

421. Worship. Just as We Are. There is another song on that same release that is the "Just As I Am" invitation song used in hundreds of Billy Graham crusades. But Travis's version has a beautiful addition about coming to Christ and how He receives us JUST AS WE ARE that my husband has used in our worship services the past 2 Sundays. Just get the whole CD - you will be blessed.
 I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
by the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I'm welcomed with open arms
Praise God - Just As I Am...

422. Planning our Thanksgiving menu via text messages with my sisters Joan and Jo. So glad this is a year where all the family will gather together (at our home) and not one of those off years where we scatter - even though I do know those years are blessings to the other families too!

423. My Wednesday night Bible study group is going through Beth Moore's "Wising Up - Proverbs study." Last week we learned about Wisdom for Moms. Not a dry eye. My life's greatest joy has been to raise my two sons. No other accolade or accomplishment means more to me that being a mom and Gran Jan.

424. I am thankful for my home and the farming community in which I live. The land of cotton. I don't have to "wish I was there" as the old song says...I am there. It is cotton harvest time in these here parts...I can't help but wonder what my paternal grandfather and his father would have thought about all this "modern equipment."

425. I'm blessed to have a mom who is a wonderful gift of grace to our family. She recently went on a retreat with some senior citizens from our church and they were able to meet Dr. David Jeremiah. I listen to this man preach most every weekday morning on the Sony radio in my bathroom as I'm getting ready for work. He is a great communicator. (That's my mom in the white jacket on the far right.)

426. This lone red maple is so beautiful in the field. The variety is "October Glory" maple, and even though we are now in November - she is still GLORIOUS! I'm in the fall season of my life too as I approach my 54th birthday in just 2 days. My life's desire is to stand strong (and sometimes alone) and say "Soli Deo Gloria."  For the Glory of God Alone! Yes I know I just made an analogy to a tree...but I love it.

For the strengh to carry on
And forgiveness great and strong
And the promise of Your mercies ever new
Thanks Be To Our God

1,000 GIFTS, #386 to #408

Monday, October 31, 2011

Here I am again on this Monday, my heart brimming with multitudes of gifts - more grace gifts, lessons learned, memories made, and in just a week! Just the blessing of being HERE on this earth, at this time, in this generation, is a gift. The Word of God tells us our life is but a vapor in James 4:14
This is a picture of the vapor in the cool mornings around our pond this week.

I'm so thankful because:
386.  ...I am very content in my life's current season:
387.  ...I am halfway through my 34th year of a solid marriage to a Godly man
388.  ...both my parents are still healthy and well
389. sons are happily married to wonderful young women
390. grandchildren are healthy, delightful, and bring me JOY
391. sisters Joan and Jo are there for me any time I need to talk
392.  ...I have a wonderful circle of friends
393. church family is Rock solid.  

394. I'm so blessed with my quilting time. It calms me to sit at my sewing machine and ponder and pray as I sew. I finished Madie's quilt Saturday and it was fun to work with such "girly" fabric for a change from the boys' tractor themed quilts. This was a simple pattern of squares and rectangles but I love the old-fashioned look. Madie is a beautiful child and I know she will continue to grace our family.

395. This is my quilting buddy and best friend of 23 years - what a treasure Lanie is. We're old school and don't mind sharing that. Faith and family are our joys. We enjoyed a recent "sew-in." Today's generation of women is missing something that women in times past did - getting together to quilt, sew, can food - train - mentor. We need that.

396. I love my job - I actually do have a "day job" besides being a pastor's wife. I have worked for our local board of education for 23 years. The people in our offices are true public servants. Sharon is one of those folks, and she brought me some apples from the North Georgia mountains. She is "Gran Sharon" and when she became a grandmother 11 years ago, it was actually then I decided I would be "Gran Jan."  And so I am.

397. Saturday was fun as the boys came very early to cut firewood. It's been a long time since the back door opened and I saw my boys come in together. Raising them has been my life's greatest JOY. I love their bantering - always have. I know they could quote Psalm 133:1 right now...

398. My husband loves to deer hunt. He was in the woods and when I got home I found these sweet "love notes" all around. Reference #387 - amen?

399. This is a cotton field - a HUGE one. Right now on farms all around us - cotton, pecans, and peanuts are being harvested. My paternal grandfather was a sharecropper and raised cotton and peanuts. I love to hear my dad talk about him because I never knew him. But I know I would have loved him dearly.

400.  What a joy my mom and I discovered as our camellia bush is finally blooming. We planted this one four years ago and the wait was well worth it. They bloom when nothing else is...what a great life lesson. I want to do the same!

401. My grandson Zeke spent the night and he was with me and my mom.  My grands call her "Gigi" (Great-Grandmother). She and Zeke were walking with pockets full of rocks to throw in the pond.  It's their thing to do - and he never forgets.

402. We moved from our home of 20 years "in town" to the country life on the farm four years ago last week, October 27. I love this land already and the traditions we are making with our grandchildren. Another JOY of this season of life.

403. My dad has wanted a fence along the front of our farm for these 4 years, and it's just something we haven't been able to get done. Well, now we have. A fence on a list of grace gifts? Yes - because if you knew how happy it made my dad, you'd know just how thankful I am to do something for him for all the things he's done for me my whole life. It was my husband's idea. He is a generous man.
404. Our church's senior adult ministry is called XYZ for "eXtra Years of Zest." The XYZers went on a trip last week and my mom went with them. They had a blast. (Older ladies are still little girls wanting to have fun and from all accounts, they did.) I'm grateful for Pastor Mike Slade and his wife Susan who lead this ministry. These girls are the cream of the crop. Back row: Mrs. Lynn, Mrs. Sara, Mrs. Rita, Mrs. Gayle. Front row, Mrs. Lola, Mrs. Lois (my mom), and Mrs. Ann. My mom told me she got her picture taken with Dr. David Jeremiah and they also had former President George W. Bush as a speaker at the conference. Blessings indeed.

405. Yes my garden. Aside from time with my family - this is a happy happy place for me. I love to sit on that stone bench under that river birch tree..

406. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shaped like hearts for a little boy who has stirred up so much love in my heart when I became Gran Jan the day he was born. I love you Zeke!
407. Me and my sweet husband with our youngest grandboy Jackson...more love stirred up in my heart. Thank you Erin for sending me this picture. It was good to have y'all with us on vacation this month.

408.  As I've learned from reading Ann Voskamp's book and more importantly, God's Word, there are times of hard eucharisteo.  We are to give thanks in all things, not just the pleasant and joyful and blessed times.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16. Rejoice always,
17. Pray without ceasing,
18. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
This past year has been a time of deep reflection, in prayer, in learning, in trusting. Even surrounded by family and friends, the sweetest times have been those when the still small Voice of His Spirit spoke to the deepest places of my heart.  Abide - be still - I'm in control. Abiding in stillness is not easy in this day of go go go - but it is always where the times of growth occur. I want to be fruitful, don't you?



1,000 GIFTS

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