Saturday, March 30, 2013

The day of waiting . . .

Today is Saturday . . .the day after Good Friday and the day before Easter.  On Thursday night, we washed hands with Jesus and we participated in Holy Communion and we thought about our own last meal.  Who would be with us?  Our family?  Our closest friends?  Who would be on the invitation list?  Who would be excluded?  What would we wish to eat?  I almost laughed out loud during a very serious part of the sermon because Nathan (preacher) said that he imagined himself at the Thanksgiving table.  Thanksgiving happens to be my all time favorite holiday . . .and turkey and dressing might be my meal of choice for my last meal.  For Jesus, there was no "list of those excluded" . . .Jesus died on the cross for all . . and I am just as much as sinner as a guy who robs convenience stores or worse.  (I'll tell you about my sins later . . .maybe)

Yesterday was Friday.  Friday was a dark day.  My Jesus died for me.  We always have a service of darkness at Trinity UMC and it is one of my favorite services of the year.  It drives home the point of it all - what Jesus did for me . . and for YOU.  The large cross at the front of the church is always draped with black cloth.  During the processional, the ministers enter in silence dressed in their black robes and the cross that is carried by the acolyte is draped totally in black.  There are always candles at the foot of the old rugged cross (brought in at the end of the Palm Sunday service while the choir sings - very moving since at the beginning of the service the children were parading around the sanctuary with palm branches and we were singing "hosanna").  Last night the choir performed The Seven Last Words of Christ by Dubois.  The scriptures were read and then the choir sang and a prayer was said . . .and after each of the "last words" a candle was snuffed out and then  . . .and then somewhere (in the orchestra I presume) a hammer pounded a large nail - three times.  This was repeated until the end . . .It is finished.  The sanctuary was dark except for the Christ candle.  Our senior minister, Andy, walked to the foot of the old rugged cross and picked up the light of Christ.  Drew, one of our associate ministers, walked to the pulpit and picked up the large Bible that is there all the time.  Drew walked over and stood next to Andy and SLAMMED the Bible closed.  No sound in the sanctuary but that.  No light in the sanctuary but the light of the Christ candle.  Then Andy, leading the way with the Christ candle, and Drew following behind with the Bible held high exited down the long aisle. . . .in the dark . . . while the timpani beat out 33 drumbeats . . .oh, it hurt.  It hurt so much.  I need to be reminded of how much it hurt so that Sunday morning - whether it is raining or not - dawns gloriously - because Jesus is ALIVE.  He is not dead as they suspected on that Friday night.  They thought they had "snuffed" out his life much as the acolyte snuffed out each of those candles.  BUT GOD (I love that phrase) BUT GOD had bigger and better plans.  He usually does.  Jesus is alive indeed.

We also had Holy Week noon day services and heard sermons three days (Monday - Wednesday).  That means I have been fed spiritually every day since last Sunday (six days in a row).  You would think that I would be "at my best" spiritually, right?  Ha!  The whole reason I originally sat down to write this post was because I am SO ANNOYED at my mother-in-law about a recipe.  It is a ridiculous story but suffice it to say that I felt much like Deborah on the "Everyone loves  Raymond" show.  The problem is . . .I can't decide if she knows I'm annoyed . . .(she probably doesn't) and why in the heck it matters so much to me (control, I think!!!)  For Lent this year I gave up talking about others - unless it was a TRUE FACT - and I have been pretty good.  If I've started to talk about others, I've been able to stop (most times) or if I've thought about something I wanted to say about someone else, I've tried not to speak it.  (Mark says I haven't been good but I think he is the one who has been talking about others - don't you love it?  I'm talking about him right now!!) - so this week .. . .Holy Week . . .I received lots of spiritual nourishment . . .and resumed talking about others.  I wasn't too bad - just a little one day about ONE person to my best friend.  Just a little just now in those sentences above about my mother-in-law and my husband.  YOU KNOW WHAT?  It is sin and it makes me feel bad and grumpy and far away from God.  And I am annoyed about it.  I guess I am annoyed at myself which makes the whole recipe thing even more annoying . . .and also the fact that as Mark left for the farm at the crack of dawn on the one Saturday that I don't have to prepare a Sunday School lesson so I can sleep late . . .he proceeded to wake me AND DIDN'T EVEN APOLOGIZE.  I  hope you are laughing with me because I can't imagine that I am the only person in this boat alone.  Paul says this in Romans 7:14-20
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Yep - Paul and I could be friends.  He would get me because I certainly get him.

So what have I done about it?  I have searched the internet for at least two hours (YES - at least two hours!!!!)  looking for this recipe.   Have I found it?  NO!  Has it made me more irritated?  YES.  Have I prayed about it yet?  Not very much.  Have I told all of you about it?  YES.  What am I going to do about it  now?  I'm going to read my daily Bible passage and pray using my Lenten prayer beads . . .and dadgum it, then I think I'm going to make up the recipe!!!

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday.  We are going to try to attend two services - traditional and contemporary (because we love them both and because after my sinful day . . .I'm gonna need 'em!!)  Then we are going to Mark's momma's house to eat lunch with the family.  I'm in charge of making Oriental Slaw (I have that recipe and can almost make it in my sleep - yum yum) (picture of toasted almonds, toasted sunflower seeds and toasted ramen noodles for slaw);

stuffed celery (I have already washed the celery and I have already made homemade cream cheese and olives and homemade pimento cheese for stuffing);
devilled eggs (eggs are boiled and cooling in the pot)

Green bean and artichoke salad (this is THE troublesome recipe) - I have the ingredients (most of them) and will make today . . either by the recipe she wants me to use or by the "old" one . . .that I don't have measurements for a couple of the KEY ingredients) (if you are reading this and you know my mother-in-law, you better keep your mouth shut - I love her to death and she is so very special to me and some of this is written somewhat tongue-in-cheek and I WOULD NEVER EVER EVER in a million years want to hurt her feelings . . .so keep your trap shut :-) . . .also about Mark waking me this morning) - love you all!!! :-)

I'm also going to make four Easter baskets - Mark, Laura, Glenn and Lauren -- these are only a few of the ingredients (little house and CHICKLET CHURCH are table decorations!).  I was excited to find Russell Stover DARK chocolate and coconut eggs for Mark (he gets an Easter basket filled with love even though I'm still irritated about that before dawn wake up thing)

Anyway, I've talked and talked and talked through these fingers of mine and I'm feeling a little better.  I am thinking that if I spend a little time in scripture and prayer, I'll be a whole lot better.  What do you think?  I want this irritation to go away.  I DO NOT like it.  I feel like a cartoon character with little squiggly lines emanating from her.  You know what I mean?

If anyone is reading this (and I know someone is because I am approaching 30,000 hits - who are you out there?), what are you cooking/eating for Easter?  Do you struggle with these same kinds of petty sins?  (which are just as big as others)  Are you thankful for Easter?  Did you attend any powerful worship services this week?

This is a day of waiting . . . and I am so looking forward to tomorrow morning. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Another Fun Wedding Reception

Back in February, Mark and I were invited to a wedding reception and blessing of the couple. Mark knew that he was going to be out of town working that weekend so I had already made arrangements to ride to and from the wedding with some friends. During the week before the party, the mom of the bride called and asked if I knew of a young adult who would be willing to take candid photographs during the reception. They had booked someone but at the last minute, the person had a major conflict. I told her that I would think about the young adults in our group and get back with her. That night, I was telling Glenn about it and he reminded me that my very own daughter-in-law loves to take photos. She and I both have nice cameras so she would have enough equipment. I called the mom and asked if Lauren could be the photographer for them. She immediately said "YES" and said that Glenn could come along . . .so I was able to go with the two of them! On the night of the event, I was driving. I had directions. The more we drove, the more Glenn said, "mom, are you sure?" But then we arrived and the location was lovely!!!! As a matter of fact, I LOVED the location. I had not planned to have anything to drink and everyone was drinking beer and wine . . .and then someone walked by with a . . .guess what . . .wait for it . . . .a margarita!!!!! Yes, they served margaritas - my all time favorite drink. I think I drank my margarita too fast and Glenn is still chuckling about me saying, "Glenn, I need you to go find me something to eat. Now, please." He said that I looked like our cat when he is at the backdoor wanting into the house. His little head is bobbing back and forth looking for his humans. Glenn said my little head was bobbing back and forth looking for him in the crowd like, "where are you???" I believe he was waylaid by a "talker." Needless to say, my cheeks were rosy for most of the evening. Other people can have several drinks. I can have one - yes, I said one -  margarita. I had about three sips of a second margarita and then switched to water for the next two hours. The evening proved successful for Glenn. He had lots of conversations with folks about jobs and our friend is a partner in a business . . .and Glenn is now working for that business!! We are so thankful for jobs!!

Here is the sweet couple.  Claire is a year older than Glenn and Laura.  She worked in the sound/video booth at church with Glenn back when they were in middle school and early high school.  That seems like a million years ago.  (I "borrowed" six pictures for my blog . . .they were on my laptop . . .)

I love this picture of Guy and Phella. They are so photogenic!!!

Claire was dancing with her daddy.  Someone told the story about how she would stand on her daddy's feet to dance with him when she was a little girl.  She attempted to do that at the reception but they are both really tall and she had on cowboy boots . . .and it didn't work too well . ..but it was really sweet!!!

I took the camera from Lauren and got a cute one of the two of them!!!

Our friends, Gary and Dona were at the reception . . .(this was after margarita . . see my red cheeks :-)

I love this picture of Glenn and me!!

It was a very fun night. The sweet couple were married at Niagara Falls with just their family present. Donna (mom of the bride) had arranged this wonderful party at Cantina! (how do you type the upside down exclamation point used in Spanish?? - I need to find out!!) for all of their local friends. Dean's (father of the bride) sister is a minister in another state . . .Wisconsin, perhaps?  She did a blessing of sorts.  She read some poetry and she read several native American blessings. 

It was indeed a very fun night and I was very happy to have Glenn and Lauren with me . . .but I sure did miss Mark :-)!!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

wedding bells ring . . . .

I had to google these old lyrics - I think they are from 1971. Even I was young in 1971. I wasn't even in high school!!! I was still in middle school. Name the song that has this line: "A man shall leave his mother and a woman leave her home and they shall travel on to where the two shall be as one."  Do you remember?  Can you hear the tune in your head?

Well, wedding season has begun here in the south.  Last weekend, we went to a beautiful reception for our friends, Amy and Ed.  I actually had a hard time titling this post and deciding what to write.  One side of me wanted to write about how much we love these young adults and how much they have blessed and enriched our lives.  They have all become family to us!!!  We have become local family to them.   Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by God's grace!!!  So, I will just say that our refrigerator is covered with save-the-date cards and wedding invitations and it is not because we are "popular."  Popularity has NOTHING to do with this.  God's love and grace has EVERYTHING to do with this!!  We are allowed to be a part of their lives because we are in relationship with these young adults that God has brought into our lives. . . .and Mark and I have been forever changed.

So on to the wedding festivities.  Ed and Amy flew away to a tropical location and exchanged vows on the sand . . .just the two of them . . .no family . . .no friends. . . no big fancy wedding.  A week or so after the wedding, Amy's parents hosted a lovely reception at the Capstone Club in a town about an hour from our home.  You have to understand that the Capstone Club is located in the rival state football team town .  .  . and only someone who lives in another state . . .aw heck - probably no one else in the world can understand the football rivalry that goes on in the state of Alabama.  Needless to say, it was a tad difficult for Mark to go into a facility that had logos for the other team EVERYWHERE!!  But he did . . .because he loves Amy and Ed. 

Amy looked beautiful in her gown!!!

Ed looked so handsome in his suit.  I have no idea what Mark and Ed are discussing but they sure do look serious!!!
They served a wonderful array of food at the reception.  They served little hamburger sliders and boiled shrimp and cheese ball and crackers and maybe raw veggies and dip and fruit.  They also had a mashed potato bar.  Mark's favorite part of the evening was draft beer and then later they served a Great Divide beer that he really liked.  I was the designated driver for the evening so he could enjoy his evening.
We sat at the table with several of the young adults who used to be in our Tuesday night group (they are no longer with us because they left to help plant a new church . . .and some of them are married now).  We also were able to visit with Dave and Angela and Leo (one of our former associate pastors and his wife and little boy).

This was my drink of choice for the evening - diet coke :-)  I did have two sips of champagne during the toasting portion of the evening!!  I just thought it was so funny when I looked at my two glasses . . .and then when I pulled the picture through to my blog, I realized that you can see all the glasses of beer in the background!!  Suffice it to say, I sat at a table with a bunch of beer drinkers!

Amy (or her mom perhaps?) had decorated with just the right amount of white tulle and they had made huge vinyl initials to put on the glass.

It was a lovely evening of visiting with young friends!!!

Jump forward to this weekend.  On Friday night, we went to the rehearsal dinner for Ray and Jannie, the son and now daughter-in-law of our good friends, Scott and Bonnie.  The rehearsal dinner was in another small town about an hour away . . .in the same "neck of the woods" (very southern expression!!) as the wedding last weekend.  I didn't take a single picture which is so not like me!!!  The rehearsal dinner was in a barn and the tables were covered in red and white checkered cloths (the rival team colors) and the centerpieces were red and white shakers and houndstooth hats (former coach of rival team always wore this hat) and footballs.  When we walked into the barn, Mark asked the lady in charge, "where is the Auburn table?"  She said, "in Auburn!!"  The menu was Barbeque and sides with cheesecake for dessert.
The groom's sister made a slide show for the bride and groom and it was so sweet.  It was amazing to see how much Ray looks like his daddy at that age.

We drove back to Tuscaloosa on Saturday for the wedding.  The wedding was in the part of the city that was hard hit by the tornado on April 27, 2011.
Read about it in these two posts - one about local damage and one about the week:
here and here
It is amazing to see the neighborhoods today - the tops of the trees are still gone - the trees are just standing there like silent sentinels.  Houses are being built.  You might drive down a street and see the concrete pad where a house did stand . . .but stands no longer.   Forest Lake Baptist Church was the location for the wedding and it is right in the middle of an extremely damaged location . . .and yet every stained glass window was still intact.  It almost looked like the tornado went around the church.

The wedding was sweet.  Ray and Jannie did something I have never seen in a wedding ceremony before.  They washed each other's feet to signify the servanthood of Christ . . .and to each other . . .and to others.  The reception was in the church fellowship hall and the wedding cake was the best wedding cake I have ever tasted!!  I love icing and I whispered to the lady serving the cake, "I LOVE icing" and she slid the knife down the side and put a huge scoop of icing on my plate - only in the south :-)

So . . .Mark went to Tuscaloosa and surrounding area three times in 7 days.  That is a record.  We had a great time - two weekends in a row - with wedding festivities!!  We have lots more to go between now and August!!

Here is another line from the song . . just in case you haven't figured it out . . .
Oh the marriage of your spirits here has caused Him to remain

For whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name

There is Love, there is Love
Don't know why this song is in my head tonight . . .it is indeed an oldie . . .
there is love . . ..there is love.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

EASY Easter Wreath and a few thoughts on Lent

I was thinking this morning about my blog . . .and about how I write about so many different things . . . and I realized that is one of the wonderful benefits of being a middle-aged mom. There are things that happened in the past that I might want to write about . . and there are things happening today that I might want to write about . . .and there are definitely things in the future that I might want to write about . . . and I don't have to write about just one thing. I can also use as many ". . .'s" as I want because no one is grading my blog (and if you are . . . . . . hee hee!) The most important thing is that it is my blog and I can write what I want. :-)  My friend, Marietta, wrote over on her blog that she didn't care who read her blog - she planned to write her true feelings.  I love her!!  I want to be like her when I grow up.  I try to write how I truly feel but I find myself "censoring" my own blog. 

Today I want to tell you how to make an easy Easter wreath.

Last year, I bought this cross for the front door and I LOVE it.  The problem is that I fully believe in the season of Lent and I don't want to hang my cross on the door until Easter Sunday.  Yes, I believe that Jesus has risen all year long but during the 40 days of Lent, I am focused more on the scriptures leading up to the death of Jesus.  During Lent, I am an introspective mood.  I am thinking more about the sacrifice made on my behalf.  I am placing myself at the foot of the cross.  I'm wondering . . .would I have been one of the crowd mocking Jesus?  As Christians, we want to say, "OH NO!  We would not.  We would be the ones waiting with Jesus."  Last  Sunday in Sunday School, one of my dear friends said, "I would have been trying to get him off the cross."  But his own disciples - his very best friends - the guys who hung out with Jesus day in and day out - weren't there at the foot of the cross.  Only John (the one whom Jesus loved - don't you love that expression?  I love how John always says that!  I want to be the "one whom Jesus loves . . and I AM!)  and his mother, Mary and the other ladies were there.  The ones in the crowd taunting Jesus were the "good church people."  They were the ones who went to church (synagogue) every week.  I'm afraid that we would have been in the crowd and it breaks my heart.  So during these 40 days of Lent, I spend time in self-examination.  I wait.  I prepare my heart.  I search the scriptures every day.  I pray.  I wait.  I know the resurrection is coming.  I anxiously await the glorious day of Easter BUT we must first go through the darkness of Good Friday before we can fully experience the resurrection.    I pray and I wait some more.  Sunday's comin'.  I know it is.  I just have to pray and wait a little longer.  Sunday's comin'!!  I know it is.  (check out this you tube video if you don't know what I'm talking about --

It's Friday... But Sunday's a Coming by Don Buck P. Creacy

Who knew that I would need to tell all that just to tell you about an easy Easter wreath?  I promise it is easy and the directions are coming.  There are a whole lot of days between St. Patrick's day and Easter Sunday for my front door to be plain so I decided to make something else and put the cross up on Easter morning. 

So these are the supplies and I purchased everything except my glue gun and my X-acto knife at the Dollar Tree.  You need a stiff piece of cardboard.  I bought a piece of foam board.  I first tried to use two different laundry baskets to trace my circles and they weren't quite the right size so then I looked around some more and found two giant serving bowls that worked perfectly.  You could also use the old pencil/pushpin and string method we learned back in elementary school to draw your circles.

You also need several packages - at least 48 big plastic Easter eggs and 2 or 3 packages of small Easter eggs.  I also used two bags of yellow Easter grass (I used yellow because it would show up against my dark green door).  I also purchased my ribbon at the dollar tree.  I had one spool left.  I think it took 3 or 4 spools to make a bow this large.  There were only 3 feet of ribbon on each spool.  A good bow always takes at least 3 yards.

I cut the outside of the circle away and the inside of the circle away with the X-acto knife.  I then started gluing the larger eggs "butt" side (wider end) together - basically two eggs per width of the wreath - one pointed toward the inside of the circle and one pointed to the outside - I should have taken a picture of that step -- so sorry!!!.  I glued a few at odd angles to fill in space and I glued a few of the smaller eggs on the bottom row to fill in space.  Then I pulled small tufts of grass from the bag and put a dollop of glue in the empty spots and crammed (what a lovely word - crammed - stuffed?)  the grass into the spots.  I started the top layer next.  I used mostly small eggs on the top layer.  I used every egg that I purchased.  Once again, I pulled small tufts of grass from the bag and put glue in the empty spots and stuffed the grass into the spaces.  I then made a large loopy bow and secured it with wire and wrapped the wire around the wreath to the back side and twisted it tight.

I think it turned out really cute and our house is up on a hill and the wreath really shows up well from the street!  Making the wreath was a fun Sunday afternoon project.  Warning - I was using a low temp glue gun but I still burned my "pointer" finger on my right hand from poking (is poking better than crammed/cramming??)  the grass down in the spots onto the hot glue.  I made the wreath two weeks ago and I still don't have all the feeling back in the tip of my finger!!!!!!

I purchased all the supplied for about $13 or $14 and I really enjoyed making the wreath.  It probably took me about an hour or an hour and a  half to make it (once I found something to use as my circle patterns!!)

Friday, March 22, 2013

New Year's Eve

This is embarrassing . . .I can't believe that I am still writing about stuff back in 2012 . . .but I am and so be it. This is where I am and there will probably be a few more of these posts. Our New Year's Eve party was such fun this year. I love decorating for the party.
I bought the new little trees for the mantle this year to use with Santas at Christmas (post to come soon I'm sure!!) and I was able to leave them up for New Year's with just a few other decoration changes.
I got on the bandwagon of "prop photos" and made up a bunch of cute disguises using my silhouette cameo.  I had so much fun!!  We had crowns and hats and lips and mustaches and glasses of all colors.

I used my same live wreath on the front door - just changed out the bow and added a pair of 2013 glasses purchased at Walmart.
Lynn and Phella were my first ones to convince . . .oh I forgot - I also made bowties in honor of Nathan!!
I thought this picutre turned out pretty cute!!
Aren't these girls cute?  They are in disguise!!
I knew that Kyle and Lynn would probably agree because they love theater stuff!!!  Yes, they were indeed good sports!!!
This year's party was extra fun because we  had a wonderful mix of ages . .. some young . . some not so young!
Folks always tend to gather around the appetizer table.

We even had some REALLY young!!  Henry was fascinated by the giant tub of disguises!!  I love how big the mustache looks against his young face!!!!
Mark always has his picture taken with some of the pretty ladies.  He and Donna are smiling!!
This group seems to be enjoying gumbo and conversation!!
Nathan and Kameron and Henry and Amelia all look so cute!!

I asked folks to bring games so that we MIGHT make it to midnight.  Someone brought a game by the name of "headbands" and a group of ladies played in the dining room.  The game was funny and the ladies were even funnier.  I have decided the best way to make a game fun is to keep the wine flowing!!

These guys look like they are discussing a serious matter!!
Back to the game . . .they were so funny.  I kept going in there and watching them.  I think I may have to buy the game.  The problem is . . .our family doesn't play games.  When Mark and I were dating he actually said, "I don't play games."  I remember thinking . . "what in the heck does that mean?"  He meant it literally.  He doesn't play games.  He might play poker and he has played that one other funny game "catch phrase" after having some beverages . . .but he doesn't play games.  I could count on one hand the number of games he has played in thirty years of marriage!!
Well . .. the group didn't make it until midnight but we actually did while we were cleaning up.  It was a wonderful way to start the new year.  We are so incredibly blessed with good friends.

Maybe I will catch up soon with my blogging.  I'm sure that I actually have some sort of important thoughts running around in this head of mine. hahahahaha!!  Actually, I do.  This is Lent and I've been doing some reflection . . .but that is for another day and another post.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Once upon a dark & stormy Christmas night

It really was a dark and stormy night. The rains came down and the thunder boomed and the lightning crashed . . .all on Christmas night. The Harris family party is on Christmas night and we were actually wondering if it would be cancelled . . .for the first time EVER . . .but no, we just timed our arrival between tornadoes (not exactly but it felt like it!) 

I've been in the family for about 30 years now.  The first few years, the party was at Grandmother Harris's house in Homewood.  She was Mark's grandmother - his momma's momma!  Then after Grandmother died, the party has been rotated between Aunt Mary's house and my mother-in-law's house.  They are both aging much more quickly than any of us want to even think about . . . and so this year, Nancy had the party at her house because her momma just didn't need to try to host such a big evening.

The party has changed over the years.  The first year that I went, Grandmother Harris had a small stocking on her Christmas tree for every single person and there was money inside the stocking!!  We also exchanged presents with everyone . . .and I do mean everyone.  Uncle John always gave money or a gift to every child and every couple!!  To be honest, thinking back on it . . .it was a little intimidating . . . a little overwhelming.  In my family, we had pimento cheese sandwiches and probably deviled eggs (because we always had deviled eggs) and stuffed celery and pickles and other sides when we gathered on Christmas Eve (I think!! - I remember it being fun)  Our grandpa gave a bag of groceries to every family.  So . . .you can see, this was very different for me.

In Mark's family, the hostess would use her silver goblets and her fine china and cloth napkins and we had turkey & dressing and all the sides.  Even though I was overwhelmed at times, I loved all the beautiful things.  I loved the pretty table centerpieces and the party favors and the gifts and the food.  I loved the silver goblets and the fine china.  It was so beautiful!!!!

Over the years, we slowly moved toward paper products - paper plates (but we bought the Lenox paper plates that matched the Christmas china - they were quite lovely!!) and paper napkins but we still had the huge meal.  Nancy decided to change things up a little this year and it was nice - sort of refreshing!!!  She asked us all to bring an appetizer to share and we had lots of good food.  Quite a few years ago, we decided to draw names . . . maybe just among the children . . .and we did that for a few years.  Now we don't exchange gifts anymore.  We usually do "party favors."  I always help with that process.  That is fun to me.  We've done clay pots made like reindeer stuffed with candy and we've done cute santa pants with suspenders stuffed with candy (candy seems to be the main ingredient here!!)  One year, seems like we all brought stuff for Molly to make care packages for soldiers.  So . . .I guess you could say that the party is changing with the times!!

Here are a few pictures from the evening . . .lovely sisters - Charis and Miriam (Charis is going to college this fall - can't believe it and Miriam is now a United Methodist minister!!)

Lydia is the other sister.  All three of them are Nancy's girls.  I've always thought that Lydia and Laura could be sisters!!
Nancy's decorations were lovely.  Lauren and Glenn and Charis and Miriam and Aunt Mary were all watching the weather.  There were lots of tornado warnings!!
Here is a picture of my sweet boy and his sweet wifey!!

Mark and I rarely have our picture taken together and this one is actually pretty good!!

Sweet Nancy and I have been friends for over 30 years now.  Without Nancy, there would be no "Lisa & Mark."  We give thanks every day for Nancy and we pray for continued healing in her body!! 
Before the evening was over, I received a text message from my niece that my sister was on the way to the hospital in the ambulance. She had a massive blockage in her intestines and had to have surgery and she was in the hospital for about a week. I was glad that the doctor was able to "fix her up" and that she is feeling better now. It really was a dark & stormy night - I wasn't kidding!!