Tuesday, November 18, 2014

a meaningful Christmas

i love Christmas.
no, i really, really love it.
like, a lot.

but i feel like sometimes - oftentimes - it becomes a time of dwelling on the things we want, the things we may receive, and, yes, the things we'll give, but only because it's what's expected.
maybe not just for the joy of giving, expecting nothing in return, not for the blessing that comes with generosity, but because we feel obligated to give.

but i also feel like that's not really giving, and that's definitely not what Christmas should be like.
that's not what Christmas means to the One Who we're (supposed to be) celebrating.
the real reason anyone ever started giving gifts on Christmas is the fact that Christ gave all He had.

and He didn't give it because He felt obligated or because it was expected.
He gave it all because He loves.

this year i am trying hard to cultivate that spirit of giving in love by buying meaningful gifts for my family and friends - a few are receiving books that i know are amazing and powerful and will bless their hearts, but i've also come upon some gifts that i am absolutely excited about and can't help but share with all of you!

do you remember in the book of james, when he's talking about faith without works being dead?
specifically he mentions giving:

"suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. if one of you says to them, "go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?"
james 2:15-16 (niv)

world help's Christmas catalog reminds me of this verse.
i have heard people argue that giving these people things that they need physically (like farm animals or clean water) does no good, because their real needs are spiritual. which is true, but, as james points out, if all you do is tell them you hope they stay warm and well-fed (or tell them you're praying for them, etc.), but do nothing to even try to help them physically, what good is it?

meeting physical needs gives us strategic opportunities to meet spiritual needs.
-claire riss

when we help to provide things that people around the world desperately need physically, it opens the door for the gospel to be shared with them, and so faith and works come together in beautiful harmony instead of being in contrast with each other like they so often seem to be in people's minds.

through world help's gifts you can provide schooling for children, farm animals to help sustain their families, bicycles for their transportation, clean water and health clinics for whole communities, and more, while at the same time opening the door for those delivering your gifts to spread the love and hope of salvation in Jesus Christ.

i'd encourage you to pray and consider giving your family and friends the gift of being able to give hope across the nations this Christmas.

but i do realize that not everyone would understand this as a gift, as they wouldn't be physically receiving anything themselves, and am absolutely delighted to tell you that world help also has merchandise for sale that is handmade by artisans around the world who provide for their families in this way.

world help gifts is partnering with an international community of craftsmen to bring you some of the most beautiful, skillfully crafted items from around the world!
these kinds of gifts empower women and families throughout the world to provide for their needs and to no longer have to depend on outside help.

i am blessed to own one of these scarves, and let me tell you firsthand - the quality is amazing, and the price is even better! (just $15 for a hand-woven scarf that helps provide needs for a family? yes, please!)

columbian coffee for the coffee-lover in the family. (i NEED to get me some of this!) ;)

fabulous hats for both adults and children (umm, YES).

darling stuffed animals for the littles in your life!

and for real. i have a few friends with this random purse/bag obsession, and these are perfection.

there is also some beautiful Christmas decor (ornaments and hand-carved nativity sets!), and just oodles of other amazing things available for gifting to the needy OR for buying for yourself/a friend.

i'm just sitting here like, why didn't i wait to start my Christmas shopping until i'd seen all.of.the.things??

so in short (haaa, funny joke. my writing is never short.), these are just some of the ways that i'm working to make my Christmas a meaningful one this year - by buying gifts that mean something.
gifts that matter.
gifts that bring hope.

because that's what Jesus did on the first Christmas - He gave His all, to give us hope.

and hope is worth sharing.

beauty from ashes // a giveaway

so my beautiful sister, nicole, and i have been doing beth moore's breaking free Bible study.
there are a thousand things i could tell you about what i've learned and how God has grown me through it, but the thing that i think has stuck the most is this passage:

"the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.
they will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."
isaiah 61:1-4 (niv)

it seems that this passage has also spoken powerfully to nicole's heart as well, as when i was talking with her about doing this giveaway, i had suggested a couple of items in her shop, and she said that she actually wanted to give something very special away - she is blessing one of my dear readers with the original of her gorgeous beauty from ashes painting:

isn't it just stunning?

my favorite thing about giveaways this time of year is that the winner can decide when they receive it to either keep it, or to use it as a Christmas gift, which delightfully cuts down on costs! ;)

up-close details. in love. 

this, being the original, and not a print (prints of this available here by the way!), has a lot of delightful detail that is sometimes lost when converted to a print, and goes for $35 in nicole's shop. love her generous heart!

enter to win using the rafflecopter form below:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

lattice-topped homemade cherry pie

this post is different than anything i've done before, but as i'm working to become a more faithful blogger, i'm also working on incorporating more things (like a lovely giveaway from my generous-hearted sister coming soon!), so when susannah of simple moments stick invited me to collaborate with her for a thanksgiving recipe "book," i was eager to jump on board!

my contribution is super easy but super special to me, as i've made it for our home thanksgiving for the past i don't know how many years.
i will admit, sometimes i cheat and use a pre-made crust, and sometimes even canned cherries, but my favorite is the homemade crust as well as homemade pie filling - not overwhelmingly sweet, and oh-so-good. so i'm going to give you the recipe i use for both, but if you're planning to use pre-made one or the other, feel free to skip that part and go straight to the part you need, of course! ;)

8- or 9-inch double-crust pie
adapted from our forever-faithful pillsbury kitchens' family cookbook

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
5 to 7 tablespoons cold water

in medium bowl, combine flour and salt.
using pastry blender, cut in shortening until particles are size of small peas.
sprinkle [don't just dump the water - do as it says and sprinkle it. trust me.] flour mixture with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, while tossing and mixing lightly with a fork.
add water until dough is just moist enough to hold together. (too much water causes dough to be sticky and tough; too little water causes edges to crack and pastry to tear easily while rolling.)
[i've had both problems and i'm not sure which is worse.... but i've found that usually the amount of water i need is more towards the 7 tablespoon side of things, if that's helpful. just remember, 1 tablespoon at a time and you should be okay.] ;)

form dough into two balls [as equal in size as you can get them]; place on well-floured pastry cloth or surface. flatten ball slightly; smooth edges.

now, here the book says to use a stockinette-covered rolling pin, but i'm not entirely sure what that means, so i just get some flour on my hand and run it over the rolling pin a few times before rolling. if the dough begins to stick, just rub a little more flour on the rolling pin and keep going until your crust is the size you need. :)

when your crust is the size you need, lay it gently over your pie pan, as centered as possible (doesn't have to be perfect, trust me;)), and press it into place.

go ahead and roll your second crust, then set it aside.

cherry pie filling

approx. 32 oz. pitted tart cherries [you can use non-tart cherries if you prefer, but the amount of sugar would need to be adjusted!]
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour

in a large bowl, combine all ingredients. mix well.
pour into pastry-lined pie pan, then cover with top crust [you can use just a full crust with a few slits cut in it, but to make it pretty i like to make a lattice crust, which i'll help you with in a minute if you like]. :)

this would be a good time to begin preheating your oven so it's ready when you get the top crust done. just a thought. ;)
if you'd like to heed my thought, go ahead and preheat your oven to 425°F.

top crust lattice work:

find your second crust (hopefully it's not too far from you, hehe!), and cut it into 1/2-inch strips.

lay part of your strips across pie filling in parallel rows roughly 1 inch apart.
now fold every other one of your strips on your pie back almost to the edge of your pie, and lay one strip crossways across the strips that are still laying down.
fold all of your strips down again, then fold back the opposite strips almost to the cross strip you just laid. lay one strip over the strips still laying down, just like you did with the previous one, folding all of your strips down again afterwards.

continue this pattern until your whole pie is covered, then press down the strips along the edges of the pie, and trim off any extra so the edge of your pie is smooth and nice.

i also like to melt a bit of butter and brush it over the top of the crust, then sprinkle it with sugar, but that's completely optional. :)

bake at 425°F for 35 to 45 minutes or until juice begins to bubble through holes in lattice.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

in just fifty-four days

it is november first, which means:

in just fifty-four days, it will be Christmas..!

but it also means that i no longer feel sinful stocking Christmas items in my shop like i did in october (which is why i made myself wait...also because the things weren't quite ready).

i will be adding new Christmasy things to the shop as i finish them over the next couple of weeks, but today is the official opening of the Christmas section in my shop (!) so hop over and check out what i've got so far!
below is a few previews, and wayyyy down at the bottom of the post (it's not actually that far to the bottom this time, i promise) is a special coupon code for you - enjoy! :)

"let every heart" print

"oh, holy night" print, horizontal version

and yes, i did use some of the same props for different pictures. don't judge, i was babysitting and my resources were limited. ;)

and before i let you have the coupon code i just have to show off a few other new things that i listed last night:

"tune my heart" print

"i will come forth as gold (job 23:10)" print

"set free (my chains are gone)" print

"bloom where you're planted" print

"be Thou my vision" print
call me vain, but, i am absolutely in. love. with this picture.

so. now that you've been a trooper and made it to the end, your coupon code is:
use it to get 25% off any purchase, now through novermber 14!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

on a thursday in october

"i'm so glad i live in a world where there are octobers."
-anne shirley, anne of green gables