Monday, December 30, 2013

Family Christmas Memories

When family is home, it is like a little taste of heaven. Exactly three weeks after our Family Thanksgiving (with 23 family around our table), we gathered again - for our Family Christmas (with 18 around our table). It was a special treat to have a son home from San Francisco, to join those who live nearby to us.

The time of year when we celebrate the best gifts of all ... the Greatest Gift of all - JESUS, the gift of a loving family, and the gifts of sharing food, fun, and presents.  The year has not been perfect, and none of us are perfect, but when we are together, we taste of heaven.  Because of JESUS, love is with us.

As a mom and grama, I treasure the memories of our day together, and love to capture them with digital scrapbooking.  These are the pages that I have had time to create so far (and may share some more from our Christmas in the future).  All thanks and praise to God for the Gift of JESUS, and for the gift of family ...

(Credit for digital scrapbooking supplies: Top page - Page Template: Digital Scrapper Scrap It Now templates; Paper & Embellishments: Digital Scrapper - Dec. 2013 Premier kcroninbarrow-christmaswishes; Wordart: CottageArts CardinalXmas WordArt. Bottom page - Page Template and Papers: Digital Scrapper Dec. 2013 Premier, kcroninbarrow-christmaswishes.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Preparing of Heart and Home

Preparing my heart and our home for our Family Christmas (celebrating early this year), and pausing to give thanks ...

For God's help even with gift-buying (including for 10 sweet grandkids) - just one more gift to finish up. (And all of them need to be wrapped yet!)

Being okay with a bit less baking this year (too little time between Thanksgiving and Christmas), but making sure to bake a favorite "Date Pinwheels" ... and loving a new recipe "Pecan Pie Thumbprints" that I tried out for the first time.

Our Christmas/End-of-Year mailing sent off early this week (have been working on this for weeks), with more going out after our Family Christmas. So thankful for many friends.

Reading of The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp - such beautiful words to read and think on during Advent. I am loving it each day.

Candles - I've been burning them often this season. They help create such a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere.

Our Christmas tree - finally decorated, as of last night! We've had some busy weeks, and we didn't even put it up until this past weekend, finishing with the ornaments last night.

Good news two days ago that our granddaughter's kidney function went up a bit, putting off transplant a little longer than had been expected. This gives more time for testing to find just the right donor. So grateful for God's care of her.

Anticipation of our Family Christmas, and a son coming home from San Francisco to join the rest of us who live in this area. Looking forward to eighteen precious family together very soon. So very blessed by each one ...

Filled with JOY amidst the busyness of preparations (such a busy time of year for a mom and grama!) - and thankful that JOY is not dependent on circumstances or performance, but JOY comes from a Person. The Greatest Gift of all.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Family Thanksgiving Memories

Here we are, just about one week before our Family Christmas (celebrating early with family), and I am still holding close the memories of our Family Thanksgiving (two weeks ago)! Two very special days when our family is home and I love to use digital scrapbooking to help capture the memories ...

These are the two pages that I have completed so far from our Thanksgiving together. And now, I am busily preparing my heart and our home for 18 around our table for our Family Christmas - love to have family home!

Digital scrapbooking supply credits: 
First page: Page Template: mcato-simplebeauty2-2; Paper: kcroninbarrow-grateful hearts; Embellishments: mturnidge_autumnalaura. Second page: Page Template: My Templates 3x3-4; Paper: Digital Scrapper Premier 97-harmony.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

To Receive and to Give {First Love}

To give we first must receive. 
For how can we give out of an empty cup?

And how can we be filled, unless we are first emptied?

It is not the usual way of doing things, to empty ourselves. This is not the way to claim success, or to find what we long for. For we are trained to listen to these lies that tell us that we must be self-sufficient. That we need to be full of ourselves, of our own agendas, that we must be in control. But we must be careful who we listen to, for ...

"God can only fill those who are empty.
Because when we are full of ourselves, full of our own solutions,
our own education, our own answers, our own everything, 
we somehow forget 
 that Jesus Christ is the answer to every little thing."
(Revive Us Again)

To be filled with what we really long for, to receive what we were made for - we first must come to the end of ourselves. We must come to the place of embracing the circumstances that reveal our weaknesses, we must throw the door open wide to the hard and the painful, we must welcome the difficult. For it is there, and only there, that we find ourselves empty. Completely helpless, and totally empty. In need.

"When I'm empty of myself,
I can finally be full of God."
(Revive Us Again)

Is it any wonder that those on this earth who have the most to give, are often those who first have been emptied? That those who have gone through great trials are often the ones who are filled to overflowing, desiring to bless others? That many organizations of ministry and service to others, have been birthed from individuals who were first rescued themselves? 

For when in need, we open our hands and our hearts to receive. And as we receive, we are filled. And as we are filled, we become a gift of blessing to others. 
"Only when you first unwrap the gifts of blessings to you can you be wrapped up as a gift of blessing to others. Only when you are overwhelmed with the goodness of God can you overflow with the goodness of God to others." (Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift)
Listening, and learning (again) this busy Christmas season that it is good to feel helpless, to be in need - for when I am emptied, is when I can be filled with Him. The Greatest Gift - given to us in our need, so that we can be a blessing to others in their need.

Click here for more posts on this topic:
First Love: What We Are Made For

Linking up with:
Faith Filled Friday

Thursday, December 5, 2013

We Have It All Backwards {Held Secure}

We have it all backwards. I had it all wrong as a young wife and mom, and I still find myself reverting back to the same faulty thinking at times. Do you do the same? 

How often we find ourselves thinking that life, as we experience it here and now on this earth, should be free from suffering. That somehow, we, of all people on the earth, should not have to experience the hard trials that we find ourselves in at times.

Isn't that our perspective so often? When a difficulty or trial meets us face on, we recoil, and often even become angry. We question God, treating Him as if He has forsaken us, and we accuse Him of His lack of care for us.

But suffering is part of this world. A perfect life with no tears is the life that we have to look forward to in eternity, with our perfect, loving, faithful Creator and Father. We long for that day (can you imagine how wonderful it will be?) - and we are given small glimpses of that life through the gifts and blessings He showers on us in the here and now. But the perfect life with no suffering, no sorrow, no trials is what we have to look forward to. It is not ours today.

"And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering." (Romans 8:23a NLT)

And as we wait for that day, as we walk through this life with disappointments, diagnoses of illnesses, jobs laid off, our everyday heartaches both big and small, we have a promise. A promise that is beyond what we could ever hope for - the promise of ...  Immanuel - "God With Us"

The promise that GOD, 
the great Creator, everlasting Father, faithful Friend -
 that this God is "with us". 

The God who chose to live and walk with us on this earth through His Son - and the God who chooses to live within us, and walk with us through life on this earth - closer than any other. 

When we are faced with a new trial - our first response may well be tears of grief and sorrow, for we are human - but may our response also be tears of joy, knowing that the great God of the universe has not pulled away from us. Instead, in our times of greatest need, He is closer than ever as He walks with us, holds us, and carries us through trials and pain, giving us deeper tastes of His unending Love for us - deeper than we have ever tasted of before. 

Remembering trials we have gone through in the past (a daughter's leukemia, years of broken relationship within our family, my husband's horrible accident which nearly took his life, and more) ... and thanking Him for His Love and Presence in the trials of today (as we are in the "waiting room" with some longings and prayers for family, and as we walk through the pain of our granddaughter's kidney failure and upcoming kidney transplant).

Click here to read more posts on this topic ...
Held Secure: His Love in Times of Trial

Linking up with:
Tuesdays Unwrapped

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Apricot Kielbasa Slices

Twenty-three family members were here at our home for our Family Thanksgiving this past Saturday - such a wonderful time together! One of our traditions is to have an appetizer spread in the evening, after our big feast earlier in the day. This is one of several recipes that I served, along with the others that our daughters brought. Easy to prepare ahead (even a few days in advance), and have all ready to put into the slow cooker to warm up. (I tripled this recipe for my 2 1/2 quart slow cooker.)

Print Recipe

Apricot Kielbasa Slices

Course: Appetizers


  • 1 pound kielbasa or Polish sausage fully cooked, cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 jar apricot preserves (12 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  1. In a large skillet, brown sausage; drain and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the skillet; cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.
  3. Return sausage to the pan; cook for 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.
  4. Note: I prefer to use a slow cooker for the last step of heating the sausage and the apricot mixture together, and then keeping on warm to serve.
  5. Yield: 4 dozen slices

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Credit: This recipe comes from Taste of Home - please click here to print it from their website.

Linking up with:
The Party Bunch

Monday, December 2, 2013

Entering Into Advent

Cherishing the memories of having our family home for Thanksgiving, and entering into the wonderful season of Advent. Holding memories close, and anticipating all that the month of December will bring. 

The month where we celebrate JESUS - for into a world gone wrong, filled with pride, with self, with pain ... comes the Light, a HOPE. 

"The Giver becomes the Gift ..."
(Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift)

A hope that grows and spreads Light, filling up the empty crevices of our souls.

"Because of God's tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven
is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of Peace."
(Luke 1:78-79)