Gathering Graces 12/30/2017

*The part I enjoy least of having everyone home are the goodbyes. They began today. Molly and Travis, and their two bunnies, Booker and Dumblebunz, got packed up and drove home to Moscow this afternoon.
*The alarm was set for 3:15 a.m., and Paul, Zoe and I were on the road by 3:30 a.m. to get Zoe to the Spokane International Airport so she could catch her 6 a.m. flight. Fortunately the roads were good and we made good time to and from the airport.
*Zoe and Cosette thought I would like a new original series on Amazon Prime called The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I also got a recommendation from Christina. They were all right. It is a really good show. I look forward to watching the rest of the episodes, but it was fun to watch it with Zoe and Cosette.
*Christmas was taken down this evening. The tree was untrimmed. The multitudes of Santas were put to rest in boxes. But post Christmas decorations come out now. Now my living room turns into Snowman Land!!
*As I was taking down the decorations, I continued listening to an Audio Book titled Hamilton: The Revolution, a book about the creation of the Broadway musical Hamilton. It is inspiring listening to Mariska Hargitay tell the story of how Lin-Manuel Miranda’s vision comes to life on the Broadway stage.
*I had been wanting to watch the movie Love Actually but could not find our copy of the DVD. The problem was, I had been looking for the case. And the DVD was, for some reason, not in the case. It was in a pile of DVDs on our basement shelf that are not in a case. So as I cleaned my bedroom yesterday afternoon, I watched Love Actually. And was reminded....
“It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it is not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there--fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.”


Gathering Graces 12/29/2017

*I watched the snow fall throughout the day and pile up in the front yard, backyard, driveway and street in front of our house. It is a beautiful sight.
*For breakfast I decided to make “Carol’s Potatoes”, a recipe of my own creation. You use a Pampered Chef Apple, Peeler, Corer, Slicer to slice and core the potatoes, then you cut them up in smaller pieces. I use my Wok pan and heat up olive oil, and fry the potatoes in the hot oil until they are soft. While they are frying, I put some Montreal Steak Seasoning on the potatoes. Once they are cooked the way I like them, I cube up some cream cheese and let it melt in the potatoes. Then the potatoes and done, and boy are they delicious. Here is a photo of what they look like.

Carol's Potatoes

*I spent a lot of the day reading, lounging around, finishing some chores, and helping Paul and Cosette with their passport applications. They drove out to Walmart and got their passport photographs taken, so they can take their applications up to the Shoshone County Courthouse to apply for their passports. But in the midst of all the preparation, Cosette realized her birth certificate was in her apartment in Moscow. So she will pick it up and bring it back on Monday, and they will go up to the courthouse next week sometime and submit their passport applications.
*One of the presents I gave Paul, Molly, Travis, Zoe and Cosette was a book by Sue Monk Kidd called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine. I had read this book last spring when I chose it as our book group selection. I found her journey fascinating, and wanted my family to read this book and then have a discussion about it. So after the pizza was picked up last night for dinner, we started talking about the book, and Kidd’s journey, and for the next two hours we explored a variety of topics about where each of us is in our own spiritual journey, our thoughts on what the term “goddess” means, our views of God and Jesus and what it means to live in a matriarchal society, and belong to a church that is matriarchal. For me personally, I could relate to some of the things she experienced, but not all. But I always enjoy reading books that challenge my thinking on subjects, and help solidify my own belief system and how I relate to the world around me based on that belief system, which for me is my Christian faith.
*I had mentioned something last week to Zoe about us having a night when we would apply a new facial mask I had purchased from The Body Shop. She reminded me of that tonight, so all six of us, Travis and Paul included, applied the Himalayan Charcoal Glow Mask. It was really a very nice experience. If you want to see what we all looked like, here we are!!

The Himalayan Charcoal Glow Mask
*I love my family, and have loved having them home this past week, and it has been such a joy hanging out together, celebrating Christmas and Bill’s birthday, attending The Last Jedi, playing games, watching television, and just relaxing with one another. And it has been nice to have my two siblings and their spouses join in some of the celebrating as well. What a blessing to experience a week like we have had. My heart is full to overflowing.


Gathering Graces 12/28/2017

*I love snow, and I love it when I can sit inside and watch it fall, and I love to watch it cover my yard and house. I think it is beautiful. Especially when I don’t have to drive a very long distance in it. So today I am enjoying it for what it is...a winter storm dropping many inches of snow during a time when I can be in my home watching it fall.
*There was talk the day before of building a snowman. Sometime after noon, Zoe rallied Travis and Cosette to help her make a snow man. Well, it ended up not being a snow man really...it was more of a snow creature. Paul was out shoveling snow when this was going on, then Molly and I ventured out to take a look at the snow creature as well. My sister-in-law Robin was not impressed by the snow creature. She offered to send directions on how to make a proper snowman!!
The Snow Creature
*Sadie, Toby and Archie all had appointments to see Dr. Cook at Kellogg Pet Medical Center. Sadie had to have her teeth checked and blood work done to check her liver levels. We took Toby in to learn how to use a monitor to check his blood glucose levels because of his diabetes. And Archie was there for a toenail trim. Tina said in the past Archie needed to be sedated for the TNT. Not at KPMC...two of their staff were able to get Archie’s nails trimmed in no time, and without sedation!!
*I had cooked some chicken breasts before Christmas, and they needed to be eaten up, so I decided to use them for tacos tonight. Paul prepared the corn tortillas, and we had fresh chopped cabbage, cilantro, pineapple, cucumbers, pico de gallo, green onions, lime and I made some Queso cheese dip to go on the tacos or to eat with chips. They were very delicious!!
*Our family received a couple of games for Christmas that we have been enjoying playing. The night before we played Sushi Go, a card game that gives you points depending on the types of, and how many kinds of sushi you have in your hand. It also makes you crave sushi!! We also received Harry Potter Clue. This game is set in Hogwarts, and the victims are the students, and the suspects are many of the darker characters from the Harry Potter movies. It has been fun to play this game together as well.
*Clark our cat was limping when we got up this morning. It seems like something may be stuck in one of his paws. We know it must be hurting when he didn’t want to go outside at all yesterday.
*I have finally been able to let myself relax and be a little lazy the past few days. It has been good to just be able to sit around, lay around, and just be.
*Today both cars are now in good shape. Our Chrysler needed new brakes and some adjustment by one of the tires, and the capable employees at our local Les Schwab Center took care of that today. Both cars also got serviced and an oil change at Dave Smith Motors. I am glad both cars are in good working order.
*I purchased a new phone that arrived before Christmas, but my initial try of activating it was not successful. I set it aside for a few days, and today I got on my computer and did a few things, and all of a sudden, it worked. So now I have a Google Pixel 2 to play around with. The camera has all kinds of interesting features. And it has a Google Assistant that I have no idea how to use yet. But it will be nice to have more storage space, which seemed to all of a sudden be lacking in my old phone.
*Having everyone here under one roof for the week is so wonderful! We have just kind of been going with the flow, and it has been nice. I cherish these moments, and try and not take it for granted.


Gathering Graces 12/27/2017

*Today was my brother Bill’s 64th birthday. We gathered together at our house for the celebration. Debbie made Gloria’s black bean soup, adding to it from our Cuban meal the other night. She also made some cornbread muffins and a wonderful tossed salad. Christy made the Cinnamon birthday cake. I provided the drinks, and made a new batch of Tom and Jerry batter for people to enjoy after a warm drink after dinner. It was a wonderful time.
*Christy asked the girls and I to put on the cowls Debbie had knitted for us for Christmas so we could take a photograph of the five of us. We all love hand knitted cowls!! And she also put special pins on each of the cowls, too. I had a pin with two cats...perfect!!
*Earlier in the day, I watched the movie Rocky. You can watch it for free on Amazon Prime videos. What a great movie! And yes, I cried at the end.
*I headed uptown in the early afternoon to get my hair cut and colored. I like how it turned out.
*When I got home, I went outside in the falling snow to play with Archie a bit, and take a video of him playing in the snow with a deflated basketball, and sent the video to Christina. I try to keep her up on how he is doing.
*It was nice to have another relaxing day. That is what I have liked about this week. We haven’t had a lot going on, or had to go and do a lot of things. We have been able to mostly be at home and enjoy being together as a family, and I am really enjoying that. And I hope to continue this more laid back, not so busy lifestyle as we ring in the New Year.
*Paul and I are continuing to read our advent devotional each day, and today’s was based on the verses in Philippians 4:2-8, where it talks about Celebration in the Lord. But N.T. Wright looked at the verses and showed how a celebration in the Lord should be both joyful and gentle. Here are some of his thoughts I enjoyed reading today:
At the same time, it’s interesting that Paul at once says that the public image of the Christian church should be of a gentle, gracious community (verse 5). Exuberance must not turn into mere extrovert enthusiasm which squashes sensitive souls and offends those who are by nature quiet and reserved.
The three main things that will come into line of the celebration is both joyful and gentle are the prayer which overcomes anxiety (verses 6-7); the patterns of thought which celebrate God’s goodness throughout creation (verse 8); and the style of life which embodies the gospel (verse 9).
Anxiety was a way of life for many in the ancient pagan world. With so many gods and goddesses, all of them potentially out to get you for some offence you mightn’t even know about, you never knew whether something bad was waiting for you just round the corner. With the God who had now revealed himself in Jesus, there was no guarantee (as we’ve seen) against suffering, but there was the certainty that this God was ultimately in control and that he would always hear and answer prayers on any topic whatever.
(This is the paragraph that really spoke to me. It made me ask myself, what is my focus each day?)
The command in verse 8, to think about all the wonderful and lovely things listed here, runs directly opposite to the habits of minds instilled by the modern media. Read the newspapers: their stock-in-trade is anything that is untrue, unholy, unjust, impure, ugly, of ill repute, vicious and blameworthy. Is that a true representation of God’s good and beautiful world? You are never going to celebrate the goodness of the creator if you feed your mind only on the places in the world which humans have made ugly. Instead, fill your mind with all the things that God has given us to be legitimately pleased with--and enjoy!


Gathering Graces 12/26/2017

*It was nice to have a slow, leisurely morning.
*Around 11 a.m., the family piled into two cars and drove to Coeur d’Alene to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We arrived a little early for the show, so we went to Starbucks, and I enjoyed a Flat White. Then we went to the theater and stood in line for a small amount of time, and then went in and got our seats.
*The movie was great. It was a Christmas present from my brother Bill and his wife Debbie to our family. For me, it was the classic telling of a Star Wars tale. It was very entertaining.
*After the movie, Cosette took one car to go visit a friend. The rest of us went to Pho Thanh and Cafe in Coeur d’Alene for something to eat. I enjoyed a delicious Chow Mein dish, and most everyone else had Pho soup.
*It had been snowing quite a bit in Coeur d’Alene, but once we got on Interstate 90 to drive home, the roads were not bad. Cosette made it home a little later, and she said it was a little slick driving home, but not bad.
*The evening was pretty leisurely as well. I put in my new DVD, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, (the 1967 animated version). I enjoyed watching it, and the Special Features. Paul and Zoe worked on a new jigsaw puzzle. After Cosette arrived home, we watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and Travis worked on his new puzzle. I also completed one of the Dot to Dot pages in my new Dot Dot Dot book.
*It is so nice to have these opportunities to do things together as a family. What a nice day we had.


Gathering Graces 12.25.2017

*Merry Christmas!! Our day began with me getting up and filling stockings with goodies. At around 9 a.m. the kids all got up and we opened our stockings. I got an adult Dot to Dot book in my stocking. I am really looking forward to trying it out.
*A little after 10 a.m., Travis, Molly, Zoe and Cosette went over to look at Bill and Debbie’s remodel, then gathered up packages and food from both houses on Cameron Avenue and brought them here. We gathered all together for a Christmas brunch and opened up presents. It was a lovely morning.
*One gift each of the girls received was their final ornament for their tree from Grandma Mary. Christy had found them while going through Mom’s Christmas things last summer. Growing up, we would give Molly angel ornaments, Zoe bunny ornaments, and Cosette received star ornaments. Christy found a star and two bunny ornaments, but no angel ornament. But she knew how much Molly loved bunnies, so she took one of the bunny ornaments and had her friend Dawn make the bunny into an angel ornament. They were all lovely.
*It was nap time for many in the afternoon. Then we brought out a few chips, dips, crackers and leftovers from last night to eat. We were all pretty lifeless after a couple big days, so Bill, Debbie and Christy went home shortly after eating. Then all of us but Paul played the new family game Santa brought us, Harry Potter Clue.
*By early evening I was feeling weird emotions. But, I have come to expect these emotions when I least expect it. I ended Christmas Eve feeling warm and fuzzy. I ended Christmas Day feeling a mixture of emotions, and I had a pit in my stomach. This could have been because I was tired, because of my grief, because of many things. But, again, I was taken by surprise at my emotions.
*One gift our family received was money to attend the new Star Wars movie. We purchased our tickets, and will go attend the movie tomorrow afternoon. We are all looking forward to seeing it! Thanks Bill and Debbie!!
*It was a pretty early night for most of us. One gift I gave our family was a book to read this week, and then we are going to discuss it during and after dinner on Friday night. (Yes, I gave my family homework for the week!!) The book is called The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. I read it last spring, and thought it was fascinating. I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on the book.


Gathering Graces 12/24/2017

*It could not have been a lovelier Christmas Eve. I think because it was so lovely, it was a tribute to Mom, and the spirit she left with all of us. Mom loved Christmas, and this time of year, and we couldn’t have honored her better than the way we gathered together to celebrate today. Being surrounded by the love of my family today helped ease the pain of Mom not being with us. It was a very healing.
*The morning began with church, and Zoe, Cosette and I sang a beautiful Austrian Christmas song called Still, Still, Still during the church service, with Paul playing his guitar. What a blessing to sing with Zoe and Cosette. It doesn’t happen that often anymore, so when it does, I am truly thankful and blessed.
*After a beautiful service and message, we returned home. Molly and Travis were in the kitchen starting their preparations for making two appetizers for our Cuban feast tonight. Our Christmas Eve tradition is choosing a different country and making food from that country and talking about their traditions.
*Later in the day I shared a bit about the Cuban Christmas traditions. In 1962, Cuba became an atheist nation, and Christmas was removed from the holiday calendar in 1969. The holiday was restored in 1997 in honor of the visit of Pope John Paul II. It made me realize how blessed we are here to be able to celebrate Christmas each year. Christmas is such an important part of my family tradition and culture, that to all of a sudden have it removed and not be able to celebrate it would be strange. It wouldn’t change my belief or my faith in any way, but it would change things. I will continue to enjoy and be blessed by the fact I can celebrate Christmas, anyone in our country can celebrate at this time, in whatever way they choose.
*The kitchen was a flurry of activity all day. Molly and Travis creating appetizers. Me roasting the pork. Cosette making Avocado Salad. Paul perfecting his drink making skills. It was wonderful.
*My friend Christina and her niece Eva stopped by to visit Archie. They brought him a toy, and got to spend some time watching him run, run, run around the backyard. It was nice to see Tina and visit a bit. Then they were off. Tina was heading to her daughter’ house for Christmas Eve dinner.
*As Tina was leaving, Jane showed up bearing some appetizers for our Cuban feast, and gifts for us all. She was unable to be with us, but she said she would make something anyway. The croquetas de jamon were delicious!
*Family members began arriving around 3 p.m. Christy and Everett arrived, and we enjoyed the Garlic Plantain Chips, Crab Empanadas and the Croquetas de Jamon. Paul was taking orders for Mojitos and Cuba Libres. Bill and Debbie arrived closer to 3:30. It is not only Christmas Eve for them, but they also were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. We continued enjoying our appetizers and drinks, and having a good time visiting. I shared about Cuban Christmas traditions.
*A while later the table was laden with our Cuban feast, and we each found our assigned place and gathered around the table. Paul asked a blessing on the meal and all those gathered around the table. The food was absolutely delicious. The menu included Roasted Pork with Mojo, Gloria’s Black Bean Soup, Yellow Rice, Cuban Bread, Avocado Salad, Grilled Vegetable Salad with Cuban Mojo, and Turron de Coco for dessert.
*After dinner we left the table and gathered back in the living room. Paul had recently purchased an Amazon Dot for his birthday, and we played some games with “Alexa”. Then Zoe brought out some cards from our game Anybody’s Guess and asked us questions from the cards. Paul brought out his guitar, and we sang some Christmas songs, and Debbie also shared a few folk-type Christmas songs she knew. Christy and Everett were the first to depart our lovely gathering, then around 9 p.m. Bill and Debbie headed out. Paul and I enjoyed more time with our family before some did last minute wrapping of gifts and headed off to bed.
*I spent a little time last night in the living room with the lights off, and only the glow of the Christmas tree lighting the living room. It was very peaceful, and a wonderful time to sit and reflect on what an absolutely wonderful day it had been. We truly had Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men in our house today. Thank you, Lord, for the true spirit of Christmas permeating throughout our festivities today.


Gathering Graces 12/23/2017

*The morning began as two of Santa’s elves, my sister Christy and myself, loaded up some trays of goodies and delivered them to the nursing home where Mom had lived. It was nice getting some hugs from some of the staff, and to wish them a Merry Christmas, and thank them all for their help when Mom lived there. We also talked to a few of the residents as well. Here I am delivering the goodies.

*I had one more stop at Yokes to finish up my shopping for the next couple of days. When I returned, Zoe and Cosette headed off the Coeur d’Alene for their last minute shopping.
*It was nice to have such a relaxing day today. I made some bread for tomorrow’s dinner, and also made a marinade for the pork roast and put the roast in the marinade to get ready to roast it tomorrow.
*Molly, Travis and Cosette met our friend Erin at Radio Brewery for dinner, and then they came here to visit afterward. It was so nice to see Erin and find out what she has been up to lately.
*Paul found a beautiful song that we are going to sing in church on Sunday morning. He will play guitar, and Zoe and I will sing.
*I love watching Christmas movies. Today I watched Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. It has always been on of my favorites. Especially when Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.
Charlie Brown: I guess you were right, Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about.
[shouting in desperation]
Charlie Brown: Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?
Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.
[moves toward the center of the stage]
Linus Van Pelt: Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus]
Linus Van Pelt: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not:"
[Linus drops his security blanket on purpose]
Linus Van Pelt: "for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"
[Luke 2:8-14 KJV]
Linus Van Pelt: [Linus picks up his blanket and walks back towards Charlie Brown] That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
*Yes, that is what Christmas is all about. About a baby being born in a manger, and he is our Savior, Christ the Lord. It is a very beautiful story. I find it quite amazing.


Gathering Graces 12/22/2017

*Everyone is home!!! Everyone is home!!! Throughout the evening, the family arrived and are now safe and sound in their beds for the next week or so. Molly, Travis and Cosette arrived early in the evening. Cosette got a ride to Worley from Moscow from her friend Gail, and Molly and Travis picked her up there. Paul and Zoe flew to Spokane from Boise, arriving in Spokane at around 8:30 a.m. They made it home around 10 p.m. I love having everyone home for the holidays.
*Jackson came over for a little Christmas celebration this morning. He read to me How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and I read to him a few Christmas books as well. He made me a cute ornament with a snowman on it. The snowman was made with his thumb, pointy finger and pinky finger. He opened his gift, which were three books in the Dog Man series by Dav Pilkey. He also wrote the popular Captain Underpants books, which are also a favorite of Jackson. We enjoyed some hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies. Then it was time for Jackson to go. His mom told me when he got home, he curled up on his bed to read his new books. I love it!!

Jackson looking at his new books.

*Christy arrived around 1 p.m. so we could partake in a joint venture of baking and making Christmas treats. We are going to take a few plates of goodies to the nursing home here in Kellogg tomorrow as a gesture of thanks for all they did in caring for Mom last summer between the beginning of May and the middle of August, when she passed away. I baked chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal scotchies and spritz cookies. Christy made all kinds of delicious bark and pretzel goodies. We will deliver the goodies tomorrow.
*One of the things my dad did during the Christmas season was make Tom and Jerry batter. He was a bartender at the Sunshine Inn, and would make this batter to make drinks at the bar as well as share with friends who would stop by for a nice warm drink on a cold, wintry day. The odd thing about Dad making the batter was, he would actually spend time in the kitchen at the standing mixer making something. This batter involves separating eggs, then beating the whites until they are very stiff, then mixing the yolks with sugar and spices, and then folding the two mixtures together. It was always seemed like it was quite a production when Dad would make the Tom and Jerry batter. I can’t remember how long ago it has been since we last made Tom and Jerry batter. But I found a recipe online similar to the one Dad used to make, and whipped up some batter. It is similar to Eggnog, only lighter in taste. It was delicious!! And I served it in Mom and Dad’s Tom and Jerry serving set.
*The weather has been perfect these last two days...the perfect set up for a White Christmas. The now has been lightly falling. The weather has not been too warm to make the snow all sloppy and icky. But it hasn’t been too cold either. It has been beautiful.


Gathering Graces 12/21/2017

*Another calm, yet productive day. All but one Christmas card was sent out today. I roasted two turkeys for our annual Community Christmas dinner that will be served on Christmas day. I baked some chocolate chip cookies.
*I am having an unplanned Friends marathon. I have watched about 20 episodes in the last two days. The show does make me laugh.
*Throughout the day I received messages from people on Facebook who I had asked to give me their mailing address. I heard from New York City, Boise, Spokane, Battleground, Washington, and Gilbert, Arizona. It was fun getting these messages and hearing from these people.
*Paul called in the morning, and I read our Advent devotion. We also had a nice visit. Later in the day, everyone left messages about their day, and now Paul, because he now is a Smart Phone user, now can Vox all on his own. He and his dad went to the Verizon store in Meridian and got it all set up.
*Around 6 p.m. I ventured out of my sequestered lifestyle and joined Christy and Everett at Bill and Debbie’s house for Apple Cranberry Pie for Debbie’s birthday celebration. It was fun seeing Bill and Debbie’s kitchen with new counters and new appliances, and to visit for a while. Then I went over to Christy’s house and saw her shed that had been painted on the inside, and we all enjoyed a hot buttered rum. Then I came home to finish up baking cookies and roasting and carving turkeys.
*It has been a nice, quiet couple of days at home, and I have really enjoyed the time spent alone. Everyone arrives home tomorrow night, and I am looking forward to all the arrivals!!


Gathering Graces 12/20/2017

*For the next few days it is just myself with Sadie, Toby, Benjamin, Archie, Dumblebunz and Booker. I am calling it my “Christmas Retreat”. Day one was very productive.
*Nikki and I started off the morning walking up at KHS. Then we went to The Bean for coffee and relaxed and visited for about an hour.
*Paul called from his folk’s house in Meridian so I could read from our Advent devotional book. Today the reading was about The Mind of the Messiah, and was based on Philippians 2:5-11.
*The morning’s project was addressing Christmas cards. I got the majority of them done, and later in the day went up and bought stamps and mailed them at the post office.
*I had a nice nap in the early afternoon. When I got up, I wrapped presents.
*Later in the evening I watched the movie The Family Stone. It was really good, and a fun movie to add to my Christmas movie list.
*All in all, day one went very, very well, as I quietly prepare my heart, mind and spirit for Christmas.


Gathering Graces 12/19/2017

*Nikki and I made it to KHS for our morning walk. It felt good to get moving this morning.
*The rest of the morning was spent getting packages wrapped for Paul’s family for him to take with him on the plane to Meridian. And a few of our own packages got wrapped, too, and put under the tree.
*My friend Kellee and I ventured over to the Hill Street Depot for lunch. I had a bowl of their Chicken Curry soup in a bread bowl. It was SO DELICIOUS!! It was so creamy and flavorful, with a hint of coconut flavor, and it hit the spot. Kellee and I enjoyed visiting and catching up.
*After lunch Kellee came over to my house, and we exchanged gifts, and then I had a surprise for her. I set it up so we could call and talk to April M Lee over in Italy through Facebook Messenger. It was so fun to talk to her for a little bit, and it was good for all of us!!
*The afternoon was spent tidying things up and cooking up some pasta, sauce and meatballs for our Sixth Street Melodrama Board Christmas party that we hosted tonight. We made the main dish, and everyone brings something to share to eat as well. We have a meeting, and then a fun gift exchange. What a wonderful group of people who are a part of the board, and it was nice to share an evening with them.
*We got to bed fairly early because Paul would be waking up around 3 a.m. so he could drive to the airport for a 6 a.m. flight to Boise tomorrow morning. He is going to spend a few days with his Mom and Dad, then he and Zoe will fly back together on Friday night. Everyone else will arrive Friday night as well, and we will all be together once again.


Gathering Graces 12/18/2017

*Bill, Christy, Paul and I drove up to the Kellogg Elks to join many other people gathering together to pay tribute to Peny Benson. Peny was a wonderful woman I have known almost my whole life, and her son Eric and I have also known each other almost our whole lives. It was a beautiful service, followed by a luncheon of her favorite food...cheeseburgers. It was also nice to see and visit with people I haven’t seen in a while, and to talk a bit with Eric before we left. Peny and Mom were in the nursing home together, and Peny was a source of strength and comfort many times for us as we were spending time with Mom. I was glad I was able to spend some time with Peny during those days as well.
*On this rather rather rainy and drizzly day, Paul and I headed off to Coeur d’Alene to get some final shopping done. It was a very successful trip! The stores weren’t too crowded, and we were done in home in less than four hours. Now that is my kind of shopping trip.
*We arrived back home around 5 p.m., followed soon after by Molly and Travis, who were arriving with their two bunnies from Moscow. We enjoyed warming up the delicious Fishermans Soup Bill had made for dinner the night before, then enjoyed watching the movie Wonder Woman. It was a very good movie.
*I am so glad I am feeling better. I still have a bit of a “husky” voice, and I will cough occasionally, but my energy level has returned, and for that I am very thankful. I thank all of you who have been praying I feel better.


Gathering Graces 12/17/2017

*This afternoon I drove out to The Snakepit for the annual Christmas gathering of my lifelong friends. I think this is the 16th year in a row we have gathered together like this. It was a beautiful setting up the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River. And the restaurant itself was cozy and not busy, so it was perfect. There were eight of us in attendance this year, six friends, a daughter and a mom. It was perfect. We spent time catching up on everyone’s news, and then after we ate lunch we had a gift exchange. This gathering is always one of the highlights of the Christmas season. And these women have been a source of strength and encouragement to me as I experienced a very difficult year.
*My energy level was good again today. I sound awful, with a raspy voice and cough, but I feel pretty good. When I got home I took about an hour nap, until Christy and Everett arrived, and our family dinner began. Bill and Debbie were getting their floors varnished one more time, so they and the Corgis moved in for the night, and Bill spent some time in the kitchen this afternoon preparing a wonderful Fisherman’s Stew for our family dinner tonight. It was delicious!! We spent more time as we ate around the table planning upcoming birthday celebrations, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve plans. I think we have most of it figured out now.
*We had a nice Christmas musical celebration at church this morning. I always love it when there are children involved, and this year we had Grace Miller and her dad Simon play a saxophone and trumpet duet, the other three Miller sisters sang during the chorus to a special version of It Came Upon A Midnight Clear as Paul sang and Simon played the drum. Then the Langer family had a manger scene at the end and sang Away in a Manger. It was all very sweet.
*Later in the evening, I was sitting on the couch by the fireplace, and Paul came and sat by the fire and started sharing about some things that are going on, and we had a really good talk, and I liked how we were able to refer back to some of the devotional readings we have been sharing throughout this advent season, and how they seem to apply to situations we are going through in our lives. This past week in our advent readings, the focus has been on patience. One day this past week the theme was Patience and Trust. The focus of this day was James 1:1-8, which talks about what to do when you go through trials. I love this portion that we read about this theme. It is just too good to keep all to myself: So James draws attention to the result of the test: patience. Don’t panic. don’t over-react. Don’t turn a problem into a crisis. Be patient. This is one of the great themes of this letter. And, says James, you should let patience have its complete effect. Let it work right through your system (verse 4). Imagine your life like a house. Faith is what happens when you look out of the window, away from your self, to the God who is so much greater than you. Patience is what happens inside the house when you do that.


Gathering Graces 12/16/2017

*I realized at the end of today that I have not been out of the house since last Wednesday morning, when I went to work.  Wow!!  The plan is to get out and do some things tomorrow.
*My energy level had increased quite a bit today, and Paul and I were a flurry of activity, two little elves making things look a little more Christmasy around here.  It was nice having Paul around to help decorate this year.  Some years it is only me, and that isn’t quite as fun as when someone helps me.  We got the tree decorated and the living room decorated, and also worked on the basement. 
*This is the first year I have decided to decorate the basement for Christmas.  We put up the girl’s three Christmas trees, and got two of them decorated.  I also got out Mom’s nativity scene, and the tears started to flow.  My first thought as I started unwrapping the figures was how last Christmas was the last time this would have been displayed in Mom’s house, and the last time her hands carefully wrapped things and put them back in the box.  But I also received an unexpected surprise.  There were more than just Joseph, Mary, Jesus, a Shepherd and three wise men wrapped up in her nativity box.  There was also a whole heavenly host of angels as well.  Each year Mom had all kinds of little angle figurines surround her nativity, and now they surround them once again in our basement.
*While working in the basement I popped in the Muppet Christmas Carol dvd.  It is one of my favorite Christmas movies.  Later in the evening, Paul and I started watching White Christmas, another of my favorites.
*Tomorrow at church we are doing our annual Christmas music Sunday.  Paul and I went through some of the Christmas songs we have sung in the past.  I had to choose a couple that seemed low enough to sing.  I hope I can make it through them without going into a coughing spasm.
*This morning our Advent reading was about Patience in Prayer.  It focused on the passage James 5:13-20, that talks about praying for all kinds of reasons.  Then N.T. Wright says the following about prayer:
Prayer isn’t just me calling out in the dark to a distant or unknown God.  It means what it means and does what it does because God is, as James promised, very near to those who draw near to him.  Heaven and earth meet when, in the spirit, someone calls on the name of the Lord.  And it means what it means and does what it does because God’s new time has broken into the continuing time of this sad old world, so that the person praying stands with one foot in the place of trouble, sickness and sin and with the other foot in the place of healing, forgiveness and hope.  Prayer then brings the latter to bear on the former.
At the end of the passage, we were ask to reflect on this question, “Can you think of times when prayer felt like an empty activity?”  I felt like my answer was no.  Sure, I have not had prayers answered, or not answered in the way I wanted.  But I always felt like praying was doing something.  Maybe it is because I understand that, as Wright shared as well, “Maybe these are the two things(forgiveness and healing) which push to the fore when we take our stand in the place where prayer makes sense, at the place where heaven and earth overlap, and at the place where our own present time and God’s future time overlap.”  When I pray, I have the opportunity to talk to the Creator of All Things.  I find that awe-inspiring, miraculous and very humbling.


Gathering Graces 12/15/2017

*One of the nice things about being sick is being forced to slow down and relax.  I have enjoyed reading a book I have wanted to finish, and snuggling with my pets.
*Paul went to Yokes after he got home from work and bought some crab legs and steak for dinner. It was so delicious. That kind of meal has to help me feel better!!
*I gave Paul one of those robot vacuum cleaners for his birthday.  It is like vacuuming and playing a video game at the same time.  Ours is a bobsweep.  I spent part of the evening maneuvering it around the living room, getting the floor clean as I get ready to put up Christmas decorations tomorrow.
*Kellogg turned into a winter wonderland today as the snow fell throughout the day.  We probably received about 3-4 inches.  It is beautiful outside.