Sunday, February 13, 2011


I was in Wal-Mart tonight and it was a mad house down the Valentine aisle!  People grabbing cards, stuffed animals and candy; some were barely taking enough time to even read the cards!  Tomorrow will be a day filled with all kinds of affections:  kissing, gifts, sweet sentiments and sweet nothings!  We all have our idea of the perfect Valentine's Day.  But, for those who love, it should be Valentine's Day everyday.  To be affectionate is to be tender and loving.  We should show our love to the people that we care about.  I don't mean that we should be constantly giving material things to our love ones, but we should show affection in our actions on a daily basis.  It does little good to go all out on one day of the year and then neglect the other 364 days. 

We are instructed to "set your affection on things above, not on things of the Earth" Col.3:2  I thought about this some, and if affection means to be tender and loving, and we are to set our affection on things above, not on Earth, then maybe we should be tender and loving to everyone that we come across. Maybe when we stop to help that mother with the three small children get her groceries into the car, or hold the door open for the elderly man, or simply say good morning to the neighbor; could that be setting our affection on things above?  Who will you bless this week with the gift of affection?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Gift of Forgiveness

Back in the 70s a popular movie called 'Love Story' had a quote:  "Love means never having to say you're sorry".  I like the movie, but I disagree with the quote.  I believe if we have wrong someone then we should be a big enough person to own up to our faults.  I also believe we should forgive those who have wrong us, whether they apologize or not. Now this may be very difficult for me to write because I like to hold on to grudges.  I like to get even with those who have hurt me.  I have learned from experience though that it is much better to leave the revenge to the good Lord.  He will get around to dishing out the punishment, but it is in his timing, not ours.

When we are unable to forgive, it causes us to be bitter.  I believe that an unforgiving heart can actually kill us.  When we carry around grudges, it causes stress upon our bodies.  It can make us physically and mentally ill.  Why?  For one thing, we are going directly against what the Bible instructs us.  In Luke 17:3, 4, we are told to forgive our brother, not just once but 7times in a day! 

Sometimes I have trouble getting a good night's rest.  Often if I will examine my heart, I will find one of two things going on:  either I am living in fear of something, or I am harboring angry.  Both are sins.  Matthew 6:14 says if we forgive then our Heavenly Father will forgive our trespasses.  But the best example about forgiveness that I know comes from Jesus Christ himself.  In Luke 23:34, printed in red, are the words of Jesus praying for those who had crucified him:  "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do".

Forgiveness is hard at times.  It is necessary though if we are ever going to be truly happpy with ourselves.  You don't have to do it for your enemy, but do it for yourself!  I don't think forgiveness should be confused with stupidity.  Don't live with the anger, but learn the lesson.  I don't believe the Lord expects any of us to be floormats. 

Elton John has a song with the lyrics,' Sorry seems to be the hardest word'.  If we are going to love with a Christ-like love, then we are going to have to be able to own up to our wrongs from time to time and say 'sorry'.  Admitting our faults and asking for forgiveness, is not a sign of weakness, but of Godliness.  I have never regretted forgiving another or asking for forgiveness.  Both experiences have always lifted burdens from my heart.  When we humble ourselves in the sight of God, we open up the communication lines between us and the Father.

I think love is saying that you are sorry and love is forgiveness.   Is there someone who you could offer the gift of forgiveness to today?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Gift of Solitude

There are times when we all need it....peace and quiet.  My favorite quiet time is early in the morning.  I like to watch the sunrise and hear the birds chirping.  Early morning is also a favorite time to read my Bible.  I think of the song 'In The Garden'.  Just as we value our quiet time, we need to be understanding when our friends and significant other request their alone time.  Solitude renews the spirit and makes us all better.  Remember that solitude is a gift; the next time that you are racking your brain trying to decide what gift to give that special person, you might surprise them with the gift of solitude!  I think they will be pleasantly pleased!  Maybe it will be an afternoon at the spa for a massage (hopefully, your masseuse won't talk the whole time like mine did!), or a weekend away to just unwind and rejuvenate!  Whatever the occassion, solitude is a gift that should never be underestimated!  The exception might be an anniversary or Valentine's Day!  But, nothing would be wrong with an I.O.U for the following weekend!
Happy Valentine's Weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Favor can be defined as a kind or obliging act, a friendly regard, to support or advocate on someone's behalf, to be pleasing, to make easier, or simply to help.  I am being blessed as I write these blogs because I keep being surprised at how easy the ideas are coming to me!  As I set out to write this blog, I thought," Ok, what am I going to say?"  Then I told my husband that I would write the blog after we watched a movie that he had recorded.  The movie was based upon a true story about a single mom with six children.  She moved her family to Idaho in search of her dream home.  She and her children worked hard and sacrificed to build a home out of a shack, only to have it completely destroyed by a fire.  But through that hardship, she and the family learned to accept the friendship of a community and were blessed with a new home.  Some of the local people showed up to build the family another home, a better one than before.  The family finally had a home, not in words or boards alone, but a place where they wanted to be, a community where people accepted and cared for them.  The community offered a 'favor' to the woman and her family, and the family also found 'favor' with the community.  Who in your life today, tomorrow, or next week can you bless with the gift of a 'favor'?  Who has blessed your life with a favor?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Letter Writing, a Gift That is Sadly Fading

When I was young, I met a young man that lived in another town.  This was before texting or unlimited phone calls.  This young man would write me a love letter every week.  I lived to find that letter in my mailbox.  I would run into the house and read my letter and then read it again.  Sometimes I would even share its contents with my mother.  Then I would safely tuck it away in my letter box.  I held onto those letters for many years, even after we had long said our goodbyes to each other.

There is just something classy and warm about a handwritten letter.  First of all, you know that it took the person some time to write the letter and an amount of thought had to go into it.  So it makes you feel a little bit 'special'.  The letter can be kept in a pretty little box and retrieved whenever needed.  It is a
documentation of what life was like at that time era for you.  The letter can be passed down to later generations as a bit of family history.  The movie, "Bridges Over Madison County", tells a story about a lonely housewife who strikes up an affair with a passing photographer.  She keeps her secret from her family until at her death when they find letters in a box.  Her children were shocked but very intrigued by the contents.  I, along with a friend, spent an afternoon in Iowa a few summers ago chasing down the bridge and home that were in the movie.  I also have "The Madison County Cookbook".
So I find it very nostalgic to receive or send a written letter.

My most treasured letters are letters that my mother wrote to me.  I lost Momma in 2001 to lung cancer.  It is very comforting to hold the paper that she held in her hands, to see the words that she wrote, and imagine her voice  speaking the words to me.  I doubt that she realized what a GIFT she was giving to me at the time that she sent the letter.  I wish I had a 100 letters from her now safely tucked away.

Sadly, the art of letter writing is quickly fading away with the technology of cell phones, texting, email and online chat.  I love my computer as much as anyone, but I still treasure the few written letters and cards that I do receive.  I now have my own task to complete, which is a box of blue-leaf thank you notes, that I started writing in the middle of January.  I have several to fill out, and as I said it does take time and thought to write even a short note.  (Not to mention the times that I have not been able to get to the Post Office to buy stamps because of all the recent snow.)   But now that I am once again at home,  snowed-in, maybe I can finish the cards and send them off as soon as the snow melts!

As I was writing this post, I got my "Madison County Cookbook" from the bookshelf to share a recipe.  But as I opened the book to page 464, it occurred to me that I had found something even better to share.
On the pages of the book is a story about a woman, who as a child had sent her coat (with a letter tucked inside of the pocket)to help WWII European refugees.  Her coat was received by a Czechoslovakian girl.  The girl kept her letter and 30 years later her daughter sent a handwritten thank you to the lady who had donated the coat back in 1945.  Now, how ironic is it that I am sitting here at my computer, writing a blog about the gift of letter writing, and then just open up a book, and a cookbook nonetheless, to a random page and it be about a 'thank you' letter that connected people from a 30 year span of a young girl's kindness towards a complete stranger.  I guess it proves that letter writing really can be a gift from the heart.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Say Something Nice

Valentine's Day is the perfect day to say something nice to someone.  Sincere compliments are nice to hear on any day of the year.  I received a nice compliment from one of my aunts this week.  She had read one of my blogs and told me that I had done a nice job at writing it.  This meant a lot to me since she is a writer herself.  That one compliment encouraged me to continue my blogging, especially since I am enjoying it so much.  Once again, the gift of a compliment, comes without a cost.  The dividends are high, though.  Look around today and see how you can bless someone!

*  If you work with children, school or Sunday School, this is a nice way to give the kiddos practice
    at giving compliments.  Pass a blank piece of paper (or a big Valentine construction heart)
    around the room for everyone to write down something nice about that person.  This is a good
    activity to do for a student's birthday.

*  One of my favorite cakes:  Earthquake Cake
    This is an easy cake to make and so good to eat!  In a 9X13 cakepan that has been greased,
    sprinke pecans and coconut (a cup for each).  Prepare a German Chocolate cake mix as directed
    on box.  Pour on top of coconut and pecans.  Then with a mixer, blend together 1 stick of butter
    or margarine, an 8-oz. package of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and 4 cups of powdered
    sugar.  Drop spoonfuls of this mixture onto the cake mix.  Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven
    for about an hour or when a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean.  The cake may be
    cracked, but that's okay because it is an 'Earthquake' cake!

*  A fun game idea for an adult party:  Each couple goes off with a camera to take interesting
    photos.  You can make this like a scavenger hunt.  Some of the requested photos may be:
    have someone take your picture standing in front of a fountain,  have someone take your picture
    while sharing a favorite dessert, take a photo of  a couple who have been married for a long
    time, etc....  You might want to make each couple's list different.  Set a predetermined time for
    all couples to be back at your place with the pictures.  Download the pictures for everyone to
    enjoy.  The first couple to get back on time with all of the pictures is the winning couple. 
*  A Valentine Progressive Dinner is a fun way to celebrate with friends.  Each couple/person
    will prepare part of the meal:  appetizers at one home, soup at another, salad at one, main
    course at the next, dessert and coffee at the last stop.  At each stop, games or activities can
    be planned; for example:  at one stop a Valentine trivia may be played, at the next dancing, 
    followed by karaoke love songs, anything that sounds fun for the evening!

*  How about hosting a Valentine Bunco Party?  Everyone brings something pink or red to
    give away for prizes!

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Gift of Laughter

                                                     He will fill your mouth with laughter
                                                     and your lips with shouts of joy.  (Job8:21)

One of my favorite movies is "Steele Magnolias".  There is a very emotional scene where Sally Field's character is burying her daughter (Julia Roberts).  She is out in the cemetery and is having a meltdown.  Her four closest friends are surrounding her.  Sally Fields says," I feel so bad that I just want to hit something.  I want to hit it hard!"  One of the friends grabs another friend, Wheezer, and tells Sally Fields,"Here, hit this!"  It catches everyone off guard, and then all realizes that she is making a joke.  They all start laughing (except Wheezer).  The laughter totally changes the entire mood.  It defuses the situation.

The Gift of Laughter can bring about peace.  Laughter de-stresses.  Studies have shown that laughter improves one's energy level and helps fight depression.  It can help the immune system.  Laughter relaxes muscles.  The heart is a muscle.  Studies have linked laughter to protecting the heart against heart attacks.  Although, it may seem to be such a simple thing...laughter, (and it is); it is also a most valuable gift, although it doesn't cost us a cent!

What can bring laughter to your life?  What was the last movie that made you laugh?  Do you read the cartoon section of the paper?  Have you shared a funny story or joke recently?  Have you ever gone to a comedy club or a karaoke joint?  Do you surround yourself with pictures that make you laugh?  Can you laugh at your ownself?

I had to do that myself today.  I fell on some ice at school in front of my students and co-workers.  I found the irony of the situation and just simply....laughed.

"Nothing shows a man's"(or woman's)"character more than what he laughs at" (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe).  Think about that one!

What friend makes you laugh?  I have a friend at school who will sometimes say to me,"Sherry, tell me a story; I need to laugh."  What a compliment!  I am glad that I have been able to bring some laughter into her life and uplift her.  Valentine's Day is a perfect time to send a card or short note to someone to simply say, "I appreciate you and your gift of laughter that you bring into my life."  Maybe you will send the gift of laughter to someone with a funny Valentine card.  However, you choose to celebrate laughter for the wonderful gift it is, remember an old Yiddish Proverb:  "What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul." 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Eight Gifts for Valentine's Day ( that works great on any day!)

I have been thinking about 'what to blog about next' and wouldn't you know came to me by another blog!  I wanted to write something related to Valentine's Day.  When I read another blogger's blog, she had listed 8 gifts on her blog (I think she may have borrowed it from someone also.).  Ofcourse, I will put my personal spin on these 8 gifts, not simply copy her post.  I will blog 1 gift per day leading up to Valentine's Day.

The first gift is THE GIFT OF LISTENING.  There are times when people just want to be heard.  They are not asking us to 'fix the problem', but rather just be the ears to let them vent.  Not everyone has the luxury of trotting off to the therapist for an hour, so they look for a good friend who will listen to them.

I believe that in order to be a good listener, one MUST be able to contain that knowledge.  No one wants to tell their problems and secrets to a blabbermouth!  How many times have you felt betrayed by someone that you had confided in because you later learned that individual had shared your inner thoughts with the whole garden club, staff, church, or whatever the case may have been?  So to be a good listener listen without repeating.

Set your purpose for listening.  When listening to an individual's problems, give them your full attention.  Make eye contact and head contact.  Don't be writing your shopping list or texting or even answering the phone (that's why we have 'leave a message').  You have time to get back to that business later.  Listening means we listen with our whole being.  We let that person know that they are valued.  We care about them and what is hurting or troubling them.  We listen with heart.

 Take time today to practice your listening skills so that the next time a friend calls upon you to be a good listener, you can get the job done efficiently.  Maybe your child is trying to relay to you what so and so said today at school.  Put down that dishtowel or tv remote, look your child in the eyes, and listen.  Now maybe his/her story is not one of the most dire situations, but it will give you an opportunity to sharpen your listening skills.  Who knows you may even learn some valuable insights into your child's friends and everyday occurrences when he/she is away from you.

Who do you know that is a good listener?  When you have troubles (and we all do), what friend is always there for you 'with a good ear'?  Keeping with the spirit of Valentine's Day, wouldn't it be a thoughtful idea to send that friend a special card?  Let that individual know just how much he/she is appreciated. 


          5 egg whites               2 cups white sugar           1 teaspoon vanilla           chopped pecans (optional)

          Beat egg whites until they form a stiff peak, but don't over do it.  Add sugar, a little at a time. Add vanilla and stir in pecans.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet.  Bake at a low temperature (250 degrees) for an hour or until kisses are light brown in color.
                                                                Adapted from"Best of the Best Mississippi Cookbook"

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stopping By My Neighbor's Woods

     Today I took a walk in the snow.  I stopped and watched my boy and his friends sledding.  I was distracted by the simple beauty of the snow falling through the woods.  All was very peaceful and beautiful.  The landscape made me think of a Robert Frost poem:  Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

            Whose woods these are I think I know.
             His house is in the village though.
             He will not see me stopping here
             To watch his woods fill up with snow.

             My little horse must think it queer
             To stop without a farmhouse near
             Between the woods and frozen lake
             The darkest evening of the year.

             He gives his harness bells a shake
             To ask if there is some mistake.
             The only other sounds the sweep
             Of easy wind and downy flake.

             The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
             But I have promises to keep,
             And miles to go before I sleep,
             And miles to go before I sleep
                         (Robert Frost)

     Snowy Dreams.....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandma Jackson

     Harriet Matilda Reece Jackson is/was my maternal grandmother's name.  How is one to correctly refer to a deceased loved one?  Do we put them in the past-tense just because they cease to be in our presence?  Who is to say that they still do not exist in some other place or form?  Then, if that is the case, don't they deserve to still be referred to in the present-tense form?  Just saying...or asking.

     In our family, I know that at least 3 offspring share three of her names.  One of the great-grandchildren share the name of Matilda.  Years ago, I would have never considered naming a child Matilda.  It seemed too old-fashioned.  Now, however, I am very pleased to see that one of my cousins chose that beautiful name for her daughter. (And, may I add that she is such a beautiful little girl!). 'Mighty in Battle' is the meaning of the name Matilda, and it is derived from Old German language.  There are many variants of the name, Mattie being one of them, which happens to be the name of my other grandmother.  I can attest to the inner strength of my grandmother.  She was no push-over.  She could hold her own in matters of disagreement. 

     Gary Reece, number eleven of 13 children, was named after Grandma's maiden name of Reece.  This name has actually become quite popular over the past few years for both genders.  Reece is from Welsh orgin.  Reece is suppose to mean enthusiasm.  I am proud that this side of the family has been very diligent in preserving the family's history.  We have a family newsletter that goes out several times during the year, keeping us all updated on family weddings, births, deaths and other family celebrations.  We also have annual family reunions. I guess one could say that the Reece family is enthusiastic about preserving the family's history!

     My own handsome nephew, Shane, shares his middle name of Jackson with his great-grandmother. Jackson is taken from Old English.  It simply means 'the son of Jack'. Now that leaves one other name in my grandmother's list of  names that is up for grabs in the family tree, Harriet.  I went to grade school with a girl named Harriet Jackson.  I remember I always thought that was so odd that that young girl had the same name as my grandmother.  Harriet, an Old German name, means 'home ruler'.  I imagine my grandmother did just that!  I am sure, even with the help of the girls in the family, there was always enough work to spread around with all of that cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

     Today is/was my grandmother's birthday.  I still miss her although she has been gone for years now.  She is gone from my sight, but I know that she is still in existence, waiting somewhere for the rest of her brood to join her.  And, she will never be forgotten...and her name continues strong in the branches of our family tree.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blizzard of 2011 (Feb.1)

      Well, I got a snow day, which meant a day home from school today.  I must admit that I had trouble sleeping last night, wondering if we would really get the inclement weather that our meteorologists were all predicting for us.  The weatherman had said that we may have 'blizzard' conditions.  This was to be the worst snow storm since the early 1900s.  I was up at 2:00 am looking out my window to see any signs of snow.  To my dismay, I didn't see as much as a good frost.  But, the sleet and snow did come sometime afterwards, as I was awaken to a 'wintry mix'.

       However, I was disappointed that we never got the 'blizzard conditions' that I had conjured up in my head.  I had images of blinding snow and howling wind.  The term 'blizzard' makes me think of the
story that I read as a child from the "Little House" series, where Laura had to walk home from school in the blizzard.  At home, they had to use a rope to get from the house to the barn so they wouldn't lose their way.  Ma even slapped a bear, thinking she was slapping the ole' milk cow because the visibility was so poor.  Then there was the time Mr. Edwards braved the weather to make sure Santa came to the prairie.  These were my connotations of blizzard.

       Adding to my disappointment, I didn't remember to set out pans to catch fresh snow until late in the day.  Because we did not get that blizzard, I also didn't get my snow cream!  There wasn't enough snow in that pan to make a good snowball!  But, the good news is maybe I will get another chance in a few days; the forecast is snow again by early next week.

How to Make Snow Cream:

1.  Set out a large pan to catch fresh snow (put the pan high, you don't want any yellow snow!)
2.  Add enough cream (evaporated milk) to the consistency of slush
3.  Add sugar to taste and a teaspoon of vanilla

       If all this blizzard talk has sparked your interest, you may want to search out the blizzards of:       
                          1.  DeSmet, South Dakota; 1880-81
                          2.  Pioneer Blizzard;  Jan.10, 1873
                          3.  Children's Blizzard; Jan.12, 1888
                          4.  Super Bowl Blizzard; Jan.10, 1975 (where parts of Minnesota got 20 inches of snow
                               with wind gusts of over 70 mph)
                          5.  3 Day Blizzard; Jan.9-11 in 1997