Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back: Reflections of 2015

Wait...wasn't it just a few months ago that I was writing a re-cap of 2014??
I have stopped trying to figure out how time flies by so quickly.
All I know is this...
...there are the same amount of hours and days as there were last year and years before that.
We just seem to get so busy, don't we?

January found me starting over, as usual and craving a fresh new beginning for the fresh new year.
I don't know when I've ever started a new year without making a resolution of some kind...
...although I have to admit keeping them is usually quite a different story :(
I'm still working on that.
February took us to Tennessee for a week to care for those sweet youngins,
 as their mom and dad went off on a cruise to celebrate their 10th anniversary...
...and a little DIY project was completed as a surprise for them on returning home.
March came in like a lion, blessing us with a beautiful blanket of snow.
There you would find me tromping through the yard, carrying my camera and a vase of flowers... know the rest :) 
And as predicted, it went out like a lamb as we flew to San Destin, Florida,
  a birthday surprise for Jim's older sister for her 75th birthday.
Sadly, we lost our precious Hunter the day before we were to leave.
Needless to say, we began our trip with heavy hearts.

April brought a special delivery as I was blessed to receive one of Stephanie's lovely giveaways
and spring arrived in all of it's splendor and the many photo ops that accompany it.
I also reconnected with an old friend from junior high on facebook...
...she actually had the other half of these photo booth pictures!
In May, I finally got up the nerve (and energy) to paint my kitchen cabinets...whew!
I was quite proud and relieved at the same time that I didn't make a big mess out of them!
And the month of June found me traipsing through the fields of thistle 
and dreaming of fried green tomatoes :)

Home improvement was the name of the game as July descended upon us...
...and it is to this day, still a work in not-so-much progress.
Don't even get me started on this subject :(
In July we returned to our Old Kentucky Home and then on to Ohio for my family reunion.
It was a joy to see all of my siblings and meet up with an old friend from childhood!
The old glider got a facelift in August and our brown house became red...with a new front porch.
And of course, I found a few moments to chase a butterfly or two.
I turned another year older in September and spent some time on the road less traveled,
thanking the Lord along the way for his goodness, grace and mercy...
...and for the many other gifts he has given to me.

And then it was favorite month of the year...
...and time for some yummy soup after a long, hot summer.
 I also participated in Stephanie's tea cup exchange for the first time and it was so much fun.
When I think of November, this is what comes to mind...
...from brokenness to blessed.
God is so good.
El NiƱo has created many strange weather patterns for us this December
and Christmas Day was unbelievably warm...almost hot.
And speaking of hot, we did a good job of keeping the roads hot as well...
...celebrating a family Christmas on the run!
The Lord has certainly had his hand on my family in 2015
and there just really aren't enough words to express my gratitude.
I do want to say thank you to any and all who read my simple words.
Your expressions of encouragement and kindness fill my heart
and I am blessed to "know" each and every one of you!
It is my prayer that your 2016 will be filled with God's love, peace and grace.

Happy New Year, friends!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Different Kind Of Christmas

This was a Christmas first.
As long as I have celebrated Christmas, I've never spent it on the move.
I am usually cooking at home, or helping out in someone else's.
The morning started off with a beautiful pink sky and we thought we might be in for yet more rain...
...just what we needed, right?

But on Christmas morning after picking up the older grandboys,
 we headed off to see their dad, about two hours east of us.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal and had great time celebrating Christmas.
It was nearly 80 degrees when we arrived and needless to say, it felt more like summer.

It was truly a blessing to for his boys to see their father in this new light.
He gifted them with iron crosses that he made for them in the shop.
I wish I would have remembered to get a photo of them.
The day ended as colorful as it had begun with this glorious sky.
It was soon time to say our goodbyes and head westward, toward home.

And then there was that awesome Cold Moon that won't happen again until 2034.
 The first leg of our Christmas weekend journey was complete.
Early on Saturday morning, we loaded into the car for a four hour plus road trip.
We were heading west this time, taking the grands to their destination Christmas surprise.
They knew we had a trunk full of gifts for Adam's family,
 but they were racking their brains as to why they would need swimming trunks :)
That fabulous moon was still hanging around as we made our way towards the mountains.
We were meeting up with the Tennessee Rays in Pigeon Forge...
...just about the half-way point for both of our families.

What would they do without their electronic devices?
Heck...what would I do we all do without them, am I right?? {{smile}}

And what makes a road trip more special than seeing a rainbow along the way?
And as planned, we made it to the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort right about lunch time.

Although they thought they had figured it out, Dacey and Dylan were pleasantly surprised,
not only to spend the weekend in Pigeon Forge, somewhere they had never been,
but to spend the weekend in Pigeon Forge with their cousins!
The difference in age is irrelevent to those kiddos.
Spending one day in the overly crowded indoor waterpark was quite enough,
So that evening we made our way through the heavy traffic into Gatlinburg to see the lights.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT go to Gatlinburg at Christmastime.
Breakfast on Sunday morning at the Pancake Pantry was a must, according to Adam.

I had the sweet potato pancakes with cinnamon/butter syrup and sausage.
I don't think any one of us was able to eat all of what we ordered.
We then drove another mile or two into the Great Smoky Mountains.
It was misting rain part of the time but still so beautiful.

I was able to get some good fence shots that I will share on another linky :)

Of course these photos do this place no justice.
No justice at all.

The roaring waters of the Little Pigeon River was nearly deafening.

One of the many stone tunnels under the bridges in the Smokies.

Trees or not, the mountains majesty nearly takes my breath away.

Yes, it was a different kind of Christmas.
Did I miss all of the cooking, preparing and the typical Christmas scenerios?
Yes, maybe... just a bit.
But was it a fun way to have Christmas?

It's not where you are, but who you're with...
...and why we are celebrating.
And there was someone who missed his mommy and daddy very much.

I'm pretty sure Oscar didn't enjoy his trip to the kennel as much as we enjoyed our trip :(
That's okay, can go the next time.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend.
Can you even believe it's almost 2016???
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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Say It Anyway

There's not going to be a lot pretty pictures in this post... fact, I thought I was finished with my pre-Christmas blogging.
I've got something bearing down on my heart that really needs to come out.
A couple of Christmases ago, I started a post entitled,
"When Your Christmas Isn't Very Merry".
I never wrote the first word after I came up with the title.
I was not brave enough to share what Christmas in the Ray house was like that year.
There's no need to even address that issue because God is working on it.
All of that mess is now becoming someone's message.
I was thinking about that unwritten post this morning and decided to change the title.
Just within the past few weeks and even as recently as yesterday,
it became so apparent to me that several family members and close friends
are facing a very difficult Christmas this year.
How do you say Merry Christmas to your oldest brother and and his family...
when Stage 4 cancer has been discovered after being cancer-free for six years?
Say it anyway.
How do you say Merry Christmas to your sister and her family...
when the possible diagnosis of kidney and pancreatic cancer in her husband is pending?
Say it anyway.
How do you say Merry Christmas to a precious friend, neighbor and sister in Christ...
 who has been and still is at the bedside of her 80 year old mother this week and on Christmas Eve,
after having a triple bypass...still in ICU due to abnormal heart rythm and blood pressure issues?
Say it anyway.

And just yesterday...

How do you say Merry Christmas to yet another sister and her family...
after hearing the tragic news that her husband's brother has just chosen to end his own life after suffering from many health issues and depression?
You just say it anyway.
Oh my friends, how do we handle times like these?
I know that God did not send us the Christ Child for parties and lights and celebrations.
He didn't come to guarantee that we would all live a comfortable life without heartache and despair.
He, himself, was born amidst uncomfortable a cold, damp, stinky manger...
and he already knew his own mother would have to face his own death not too far down the road.

So why did he come and why do we still celebrate?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16
This is why we can still wish someone a Merry Christmas in the midst of uncertainty and sorrow.
For this reason and this reason alone is why we should!
Because the tears of that little baby in the manger were for us.
 He cried for us then, and I believe he still does today...he hurts when we hurt!
He even died for us because he loves us so much!
 There's no doubt that there are many who are going through many struggles.
It is my hope and prayer that the Light of World will brighten up your Christmas,
no matter how dark it seems to be right now.

So, to you I say...
Merry Christmas!

Love and hugs,

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Christmas Blessing

It came in the mail today.
I recognized his left-handed scrawl on the envelope right away.

Tears of joy flowed when I read the words he scribbled...

Here's the translation if you're having trouble making it out:

Thank you guys so much for never giving up on me and believing in me 
that one day I would find Christ in me. I'm so grateful to have such great parents. 
I love you Mom & Dad very much...Merry Christmas!
Love, Aaron
Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

God is good.

God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he'll have compassion on you;
he'll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered.
Deuteronomy 30:3 (The Message)

Wishing you all a JOY-filled Christmas!

Much love,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Next Stop: Christmas Memory Lane

It's that time again...time for my annual trip.
I travel there every year about this time and don't even need to pack a suitcase.
 I'm going on yet another excursion down Christmas Memory Lane.
Wanna come with me?
I'm not really sure how old one has to be to consider themselves "vintage",
but I'm pretty sure, I fit the bill.
 This post is chock full of vintage things and people :)
While reading this post from Dayle a few days ago,
one of her photos instantly transported me back in time..
It was of a beautiful vintage cardboard nativity that had been in her family for 75 years.
As soon as I saw it, an image from an old family photo album came to the forefront of my brain.

I realize you can barely see it in this old black and white snapshot but I think you get the idea.
I imagine that it was really quite beautiful in it's day.
I can't say whether or not that I actually remember the cardboard nativity, itself,
 or just paging through the old photo albums and coming across it many times.
Isn't it funny how the memory works sometimes...or doesn't?!
As I was reminiscing, a good dose of nostalgia set in as it always does...
as I remembered the sweet simplicity of my childhood Christmases.
One memory led to another...and to another...

Anyone ever have any trees that resemble this fine one?
And get a load of that TV set, would ya!
It was all that poor tree could do, to support that angel-on-a-cloud tree topper...

(Look, I found this one on ebay!) weighed a ton, or at least it seemed like it did when I was little.
One of my sisters still uses that old tree topper, today :)

The tree looks as if it's doing a hula dance...or maybe even a ball juggling act.
And then there were years we went to the other extreme...

That tree just is w-a-y too big for that desk.

Looks like Santa brought someone a new doll baby and stroller!
These are my sisters, Janet and Barbara.
Little Debby wasn't on the scene yet I guess...unless I was lying in a crib somewhere.
I hope they kept a better eye on their little sister than they did that poor little baby doll.
Quick...someone grab her before she slides out!
They certainly don't make baby items like they used to...thank goodness!
Below, in the back row are siblings, Jerry and Ruby
and that is Janet and Doug in front.

And then a few years later, here's me and my oldest sister, Lois,
who was pretty much my second mother.

She spoiled me rotten.

Everyone was fun too...
until I started getting blamed for everything...because...well, just because :)

"Thank you, Santa!"
Below, several years later, sis Barb and I digging in to the presents.

I can tell this photo was taken with my dad's new, state-of-the-art Polaroid Instant camera.
Remember those applicators with that smelly liquid that you had to apply to "set' the pictures?

Ah, at it's finest!

And one last photo, if you are still with me...
 of my brother Jerry standing in front of our elaborate Christmas lights display.
Those were the days :)
Well, it's almost here and I've still got tons to do!
I'm not sure how much I'll be hangin' out in blogland, but we'll see.
Happy Christmasing, everyone!

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Baby, it's cold outside! (if only)

When I started this post it was cold outside.
That's the way it is around these parts in the almost-winter...
...bitter cold one day, balmy the next.
One thing that makes me happy, especially around Christmastime,
is that cold-outside-while-it's-warm-and-cozy-inside kind of feeling.
That feeling can be conveyed in many ways.
Maybe it's a roaring, crackling fire in the fireplace...

...the soothing ambiance of scented candles...

...the soft glow of Christmas lights...

...and something I adore year 'round...a room dimly lit with only a few accent lamps.

A few months back while browsing at a local thrift store,
I turned down an aisle and suddenly it was like I had been transported back to the 70's.
I was surrounded by harvest gold....everything.
I have to tell you all a little secret...
I actually have fallen back in love with it.
Well let's just say, I was like little kid in a candy store.
I was really tempted to buy this set of glasses...

...identical to the set Jim and I began married life with...ahh...the memories...
But I didn't...a few of them were chipped :(
I did, however, buy a few other "golden" things.

There was something about this jar (front) that I couldn't resist,
and it kind of (but not really) matched my vintage gold cannister set that I had found... three different visits to three different Goodwill stores.
Then I came across a couple of harvest gold vintage globes from some sort of light fixture.
A silent little voice inside of me squealed with delight!
I knew I had to have them and I knew just exactly what to do with them.
These were my skinny little candlestick lamps before...

...and here they are after the "golden globes" {smile}...
...a perfect fit.

So...let's get back to warm and cozy...

I just love the reflections they create on the wall...

...and the cozy atmosphere they bring to the room.
I really look forward to turning them on every evening.

The warm glow that they give off just does something for me...
...especially on a cold, gray, almost-winter night.

Oh, I can hear some of you now..."are you kidding me...harvest gold??"
Call me crazy, call me old fashioned...go ahead, I'll take either one...or both!
So it may or may not be cold outside in the middle of December in North Carolina,
but I can pretend that it is when it isn't.
The glow of my vintage lamps will warm up the room, regardless.

So, please excuse me if you will...I must go crank up the A/C :)

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