Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking toward the new year...

It was this time last year when I decided that rather than making resolutions, I wanted to have a theme for 2008. That theme came from the desire for 2008 to be a year filled with the "Fruit of Thankfulness." As I look toward 2009, I want to again allow the Lord to lead me. I want to seek to follow Him in every area of my life. I am thinking now of Proverbs 3:5-6 which says I should trust in Him with all my heart, that I should not trust in or lean on my own wisdom or understanding, that I should think of or acknowledge Him in all my ways... and that if I do these things, He promises to direct my path or make my path straight. A straight path is so much easier to navigate and so much less hazardous than one with twists, turns, and nuances that are unexpected. I don't know about you, but I like the thought of walking on the straight path with level ground around my feet at all times. He can even make the hills and valleys seem level if I am walking closely with Him.

This past year has been one of rediscovering my love for artwork and just the creative process in general. I am so thankful for what the Lord has done in my life over this past year. And while rediscovering my artwork was exciting, it means nothing apart from Him. So I am looking forward to this year with great anticipation that whatever it might hold, the joy is not in what happens but in the One with whom I am walking through it. I pray the same for you... may you discover that the joy is not in the circumstances or in the "doing"... but the real joy comes from knowing the One who has created you, gifted you, and brought you to the place in which you find yourself.

May God bless you in 2009 as never before,
From Charm & Grace Cottage

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

A beautiful day was spent here in our cozy cottage... it began with reading the story of the nativity together in the children's upstairs bedrooms before coming downstairs to see their gifts. After exchanging gifts with each other, we cleaned up a little... just in time for two sets of grandparents to arrive. We enjoyed a lovely lunch of smoked turkey, smashed sour cream potatoes, traditional green bean casserole, boiled shrimp, salmon dip, and hot spiced apple cider. Dessert was a Cranberry Swirl Coffee Cake topped with icing and pecans. Then, of course, there were all the baked goodies to snack on all afternoon. We had the movie Holiday Inn playing in the background. Once the grandparents left, the five of us played games and then watched White Christmas, probably our favorite Christmas movie. It's time for bed... we're exhausted... but surrounded with love and very, very blessed.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

From Charm & Grace Cottage

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sorrowful days... yet filled with Hope!

Two families that have been such a large part of my life have lost loved ones over the weekend. Somehow, it seems this shouldn't happen at Christmas, and yet I know God's timing is perfect. My heart is breaking for their losses, but knowing both of these people were believers and understood salvation allows us to grieve not as those who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 5:13 "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.") Hope has a name: Jesus. And if not for Christmas, we would not have that Hope. So, while we grieve and mourn our loss and temporary separation, we look forward to the reunion with hope that does not disappoint. (Romans 5:5 "and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.")

Welcome To Our World
by Chris Rice

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long-awaited Holy Stranger
Make Yourself at home
Please make Yourself at home

Bring Your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile fingers sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

If you don't know this one, it's worth watching this and hearing the melody... hauntingly and simply beautiful.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy Anniversary to us... and more tour

Today is our 22nd anniversary. I have now been married over half my life (you mathematicians should have a ball with this one.) Anyway, I have sooooo much shopping and running around to do, so we are going to have a mini celebration -- lunch at one of our favorite restaurants just a couple of miles from home. I am looking forward to it!

Here is our den tree...

This is an ornament I cross-stitched the first year we were married. It's now been on our tree every year for 21 years.

My children have always loved the colorful lights and brightly colored ornaments on this particular tree.

This ornament was a present at a Christmas Wedding Shower for the two of us; it says "Our First Christmas." A Christmas Shower is a great idea for couples getting married, as you usually don't have any Christmas decor that first year.

Our kitchen table ...beribboned brass candlesticks.

Our dining room table with lighted village in the background...

Foyer nativity which I have had since I was a very young girl. My mother and I made it as a ceramics project...

Carolers that were given to me by my grandmother, who had exceptional taste in all her decorating. (She is the one who introduced me to Victoria magazine.)

Christmas Blessings!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Christmas Tour...

Here's a look at our home from the outside. A little love for the mailbox...

A veiw from the front...

The door...

Lamp post at night... (you can see the reason the window next to our front door has no wreath on it like the others...)

And if the Weatherman wanted to send a little of this kind of frosting to go along with my Christmas decor, it would be just fine with me!

Merry Christmas from my house to yours!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Peppermint Red Velvet Cake... yummmm!

Here is a Southern Living recipe that will wow your guests! The photos are of the one I made (for the first time) last year. This one's a keeper.

Red Velvet Peppermint Cake

1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix
3 egg whites
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 (9-ounce) package yellow cake mix*
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
Garnishes: Holiday Trees, 6 (5-inch) red and white peppermint candy canes, crushed; 12 (5-inch) green candy canes, broken; 12 round peppermint candies

Beat first 4 ingredients according to cake mix package directions.

Beat yellow cake mix and next 6 ingredients according to package directions. Spoon red batter alternately with white batter into 3 greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans. Swirl batter gently with a knife.

Bake at 350° for 22 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

Spread Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. (Cake may be chilled up to 2 days or frozen up to 1 month.) Garnish, if desired. Serve within 2 hours.

*1 3/4 cups yellow cake mix may be substituted

NOTE: For testing purposes only, we used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe White Cake Mix, Jiffy Golden Yellow Cake Mix, and McCormick Red Food Color.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 (2-pound) package powdered sugar
2 teaspoons peppermint extract*

Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating at low speed until smooth. Add extract, beating until blended.

*2 teaspoons vanilla extract may be substituted.

One final hint: if you garnish with peppermint sticks as I did, you may want to remove them after the original serving of the cake... they tend to run and become gummy. Hope you try it and love it as much as I did!

From Charm & Grace Cottage

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thank You and A Christmas Tour

I want to thank you all for your kind thoughts, prayers, and wishes for a speedy recovery! I am well now and back to good health. Though it took a while to shake this and the timing was inconvenient, I am thankful to be better. Hope you are all managing to dodge this round of nastiness.

I am working diligently on commissioned artwork which must be completed in a timely fashion in order for my clients to have them before Christmas. So, blogging is taking as dismal backseat to getting those things done. I will be posting pictures once the artwork has been gifted and sent away to new homes. For now, I will try to do a series of posts showing some of my Christmas decor.

First, we'll begin with "my" tree... this one is in our living room and is decorated with gold, silver, white, and crystal ornaments. It has many heirloom ornaments and a few that I made specifically for this tree which you'll see in the last few photos.

The pinecone ornament is made from two small pinecones which are sprayed with gold paint and hot glued to either end of a gold braided cord. The seashells above are spraypainted gold and silver. I then hot-glued a small ribbon to the top. Once the glue dried, I used hot glue to attach strung pearls spiraling around the looped ribbon and covering the glue. This has proven to have held for many years now.

Thanks for joining me for the tour!

From Charm & Grace Cottage

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I have fallen down a black hole....

and it's not a nice rabbit hole like Alice fell down. My hole is a foggy brained, achy, feverish place from which I can't seem to climb out. It started as a sore throat on Thanksgiving Day then proceeded to fully blown tonsil-touching, can't-swallow-soreness by Sunday. It then made it's way into my head and now it is also causing coughing fits to beat the band. Thank the Lord and good science for Robitussin DM and Sudafed (and of course Kleenex)! I feel that tomorrow will be my breakout day (how's that for positivity?) I can't even bring myself to say that this stuff is for the birds... I wouldn't wish it on those poor harmless creatures! I am not sure I'd even wish it on those tortuous chipmunks that are wreaking havoc on our attic (okay maybe I would.)

I haven't had the energy or the desire to look at the computer these past few days, so I have a bunch of catching up to do. I just felt the need to check in tonight, as it has been too long. Hope all of you out there are having a wonderful first week of December! I hope to share some Christmas decor pictures with you very soon... for now here are some of my Thanksgiving table.


Friday, November 21, 2008

The Season and the Theme

As this new year began, instead of making a New Year's resolution I wanted to come up with a theme for the year that would be honoring to the Lord. As I meditated on this, I believe the Lord showed me that He wanted this year to be one that produced fruit inspired from deep within ... from a thankful heart... and thus my theme became Fruit of Thankfulness. You can read more about that here, if you'd like. And now, as we reach the thankful season, I have been reflecting on how well I have "kept" the theme in my life.

My artwork has been a source of many ups and downs, but in all of it I have really and truly been thankful to be blessed to get to do what I love to do. God has shown Himself to me so often in this process, and for that I am TRULY thankful. I know that there are many days when I am not as productive as I could or should be, and on those days I am truly thankful that He loves me in spite of me.

I have also seen fruit in my family this year... not of my doing, mind you, but fruit straight from the hand of the Lord... fruit of children who are following the Lord and desire to serve Him, of a husband who loves the Lord and his family above anything else, of an extended family that is more excellent than gold or fine jewels and such a blessing to me, of God's healing mercies in my father and in my mother-in-law, of a precious church family who has gathered around us so often to lift up and encourage us in ministry, and so much more. I am truly blessed and as we head into this Thanksgiving week I just need to praise the Lord publicly for all that He has done.

From a thankful heart...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


What is home to you? While the first thing that usually comes to mind when we talk about home is a house, what is home really? For most of us, I would propose that it is more about who than where. Home is where our family is. That may be in our house, or it may be somewhere else. For our family, it is wherever we all are. Whether we are in a hotel room, on a vacation, driving in our car, at a ballgame, on a picnic... wherever we are all together is home.

Further, I would propose that for the believer, home is not a place but a person. Home can be here or in heaven... but the main point is that it is wherever He is. Because really, He is our home.

I Will Bring You Home
by Michael Card

Though you are homeless, though you're alone,
I will be your Home.
Whatever's the matter, whatever's been done
I will be your Home.
I will be your Home.
I will be your Home.
In this fearful, fallen place
I will be your Home.

When time reaches fullness, when I move my Hand
I will bring you Home;
Home to your own place in a beautiful land...
I will bring you Home.
I will bring you Home.
I will bring you Home.
From this fearful, fallen place
I will bring you Home.
I will bring you Home.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Some good news and some artwork

Two posts in one day... I know, I know. But I wanted to share some good news I just received and a little of the artwork I have done this week. First the good news... my son got his first college acceptance letter today from a university he has had designs on attending for several years now. As a homeschooling mom, this is a very welcome day and one that has not come without some major sacrifices. I look back over these twelve years and think of the mulititude of times I could have had peaceful days at home if all my children were off in public or private schools. I could have had "time to myself" and been able to do some things just for myself. But, I am quickly reminded that there would have been so many things I would have missed... seeing the "lightbulb" come on while doing a math problem or teaching them to read... seeing their eyes light up as they found out something wonderful about how our universe is put together or how our bodies are formed with such intricate detail and amazing functionality... or seeing their realization of how important communication is, as we see an ever-increasing need to have great command of the language in order to communicate effectively in our "wired world"... or knowing that they couldn't wait until we studied their favorite part of history. All these things and many more help me to know that the sacrifice was worth it. So, I am rejoicing today that I am about to send one of my "baby birds" out from this nest and am thankful that he is a responsible and generous young man.

And now for the artwork...

I thought you might be interested to see the stages of this one. It was a great deal of fun to do.

"Where Dreams Live"
- graphite on paper

This watercolor was done from a lovely picture I found in The English Garden magazine of two people from vastly different generations who were obviously enjoying one another's company tremendously.

"Joyful Years"
- watercolor on Arches 140 lb. cold press

And thanks to Cielo from The House in the Roses for hosting "Hopeful Friday"!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Christi's Psalm 123

So my study of the Psalms of Ascent continues and here's one that is mighty appropriate for these hours... in my own words, of course.

Christi's Psalm 123

My gaze lifts to You, LORD, and settles on the vision of You on Your throne.
Just as a servant's eyes are so careful to watch and wait for his master's hand to lift,
So my eyes are fixed on You in readiness for You to move with grace on behalf of Your people.
Show us Your mercy and Your grace, LORD, because as a people -- Your people -- we are ridiculed and scorned by those on the outside looking in ... those who consider themselves either more intellectual or more worthy because of their tolerance of things contrary to Your law.
They think their opinions are of more worth than Your Word -- and we need Your grace and mercy to endure it!

These words are so helpful right now with all that is going on in our present world. As a believer, I am called to pray for those in positions of leadership... that means local leaders, state leaders, national leaders, and world leaders. I am also called to stand for Truth. I can't back down on it even when it would seem more convenient. I know it sustains me through times of joy and times of total despair. Even when all the ground around my feet seems to crumble and fall, if my feet are planted on the Truth of God's Word I cannot fall. The ground of the Word right under my feet is firm and unshakeable! Am I naive enough to think that harm and calamity cannot come to me? No. I know that while God's people are blessed with His presence, they are also called to suffer. This may be a physical suffering, an emotional suffering, (economical suffering?) or spiritual suffering in the form of persecution. It is coming hard at us right now. But, let us stand firm. Let us not waiver in our faith. Further, let us who are called by His name praise God that we are counted worthy to suffer with Christ.

Acts 5:41 "So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name."

Romans 8:17-18 "...and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

There is no promise of immunity from suffering in God's Word. But there is the promise of His presence both now and forever. He is Emmanuel, the God who is with us. And if our covenant keeping God is with us, who can be against us?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blogging Friends Forever Award

I have received an award from one of my best blogging friends, Vee at A Haven for Vee. She is such an encouragement to me and has been a faithful and frequent commenter here for quite some time. I am humbled and grateful to receive this from her. Here are the rules:

1. You may only choose 5 people/blogs to give the award to...

2. Four have to be dedicated followers of your blog...

3. One has to be a new follower of your blog or live in another part of the world...

It's tough to only pick five, but I am going to play by the rules this time. I am awarding this to four of the bloggers who have been with me the longest and are still around to read and encourage. They followed me from my original Charm & Grace Blog to this wonderful and much more user friendly Blogger Cottage. And I am awarding it to one newer friend whose blog I fell in love with earlier this year and have been following.

1. Lorrie at Fabric, Paper, Thread has been a blog friend almost since I began blogging in April of 2007. She is a kindred spirit in so many ways, and she never fails to lift my spirits with her comments. I love to read about her creativity whether through writing, sewing, scrapbooking, decorating, or creating from paper.

2. Bebe's Peaches~and~Dreams blog is so beautiful and filled with such fun. Bebe is a fellow southerner and really understands some of my quirky "southern-ness." She has been such a sweetheart to stick with me for so long.

3. Barb from The French Elements is a wonderful blogger who has just given me tremendous encouragement all along the way. (I would have to say that encouragement is definitely her spiritual gift!) She is a wonderfully creative person with a heart of gold, and I am honored that she has stuck with me so long.

4. Ruth from Artful Creations is a very talented artist who also has a fantastic eye for photography. (If you haven't seen her pictures from the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park in Utah, you must get over there now!) It means so much to have a fellow artist friend take the time to encourage me by reading and commenting.

Thanks to all you ladies for following me over here from over there, for taking time to read my posts, and for leaving your beautiful and cherished words of encouragement!

5. If you haven't visited The Dutchess, then you don't know what you're missing. It is always a showcase for beautiful artwork and classic literature. And just so we're following the spirit of the rules, she just happens to live in another part of the world in the beautiful Netherlands. She has definitely become a BFF over these past months.

And I am giving Strider a "notable mention" (as I am not sure he would appreciate the whole Blogging Friends Forever thing.) He never fails to encourage and exhort us in our walk with the Lord, and his comments always mean a lot.

Best blogging blessings to you all!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Some real encouragement for these troubling days

In my current study of the Psalms of ascent, one activity that I love is that once we have thoroughly studied the Psalm, we then write it our own words. I wanted to share the first two with you and hope that it will somehow encourage you.

Psalm 120

LORD, I feel that our nation and world have been taken over by deceitful liars.
I want Your Name to be honored here and everywhere.
Yet, it seems that all people do is lift up themselves by using any means necessary, including lies and deceit.
Show Yourself strong; reveal who You are to Your people and then through Your people.
Help us to remain faithful to You whatever the cost.

Psalm 121

My gaze begins to lift; I look up to Your creation -- to the beauty of the mountains --
Knowing the One who created them and all their grandeur is the only One in Whom I can find help!
My Covenant Keeper has promised that He will not allow my foot to slip because He will be watching out for me every moment of every day,
And He never sleeps.
My Covenant Keeper protects me because He is always with me... right by my side... to ward off danger and evil.
Even the sun or moon cannot harm me because He is in charge, and He has promised to protect me.
My Covenant Keeper will protect me wherever I go -- from this day until tomorrow and every day after that.

Wishing you all a blessed day!