All posts beginning at the beginning in late 2007 when Denise first began her popular, engaging blog, are contained here! You can be inspired and empowered with Denise’s writings from 2007 to this January 5th 2012 post. However, all of Denise’s latest blog posts from January 6th 2012 to TODAY, along with her new, updated website, can be found at:
Here is Jared, so many years ago – and now today at age 24. I want to tell you a fun little story that began two decades ago…
In early January of 1992, we lived in Independence, Missouri, in a lovely blue house (yep, it was cool to paint your house blue in those days!) in a cul-de-sac with a giant, fenced-in backyard my hubby had helped to enclose for our busy little boys to have a safe place to play. We had three young sons at the time, aged 7 1/2, 5 1/2 and 4 and I was a good 3-months pregnant with the next – our fourth-born son, who would be born in June of that year.
[Sidenote: If you're too young to recall, a middle-aged, darling redheaded puppeteer named Shari Lewis, who has since passed on, was quite famous on television back then with her hand-puppet character, Lamb Chop, and her inspirational banter.] I remember clearly that we were all out celebrating our Jared’s 4th birthday with some friends and family. We gave him his little Lamb Chop puppet as a gift that night, which he still has even now, 20 years later .
My hubby and I were scheduled to leave for Singapore the next day, so we were having a festive, happy time, but were sad to be leaving the kids early the next morning. A wonderful, godly man named Sam Sasser, who had a marvelous impact in the Marshall Islands, helping to see so many lives transformed over years of living there with his family, along with the impact he’s had in the U.S. and around the world, had invited us to be part of a team he put together to serve as the faculty of a worship conference in Singapore, and to speak at some churches while we were there. My husband, Gregory, and Sam were dear friends and comrades before Sam passed away several years ago. Greg has many stories of this adventurous evangelist and pastor-friend who truly lived a life of faith while on the earth.
When we arrived in Singapore, we were hosted by a family who were members of the church where the conference was taking place. The husband was Chinese, the wife, Japanese. They were disciples of Jesus, and had destroyed many expensive tokens of worship from their old religion, Buddhism, when they came to know the Lord. They were very successful in business, and serious about their faith. There was the mother, father, grown son and daughter who lived in the home. The mother was a beautiful woman with pure white skin, who looked exactly like you’d think an elegant Japanese woman would look! We interacted lots with them during our stay and we had a good connection and felt such warmth and love from them. They were very kind and generous and when we were leaving, the mother gave me a beautiful ring, kept in a silk pouch, as a gift.
We arrived home to Kansas City and had a wonderful reunion with the boys. We’d found some fun gifts for them at the markets; Zorro and karate costumes and a popular, new hand-held game the folks in Singapore called ‘the brick game,’ but it was actually what we know now as Tetris. Funny what you remember, huh?!
When I showed Jared my beautiful ring, he suddenly asked, “can I have that for my wife when I get married?” It was such a surprising question from such a little guy, but I didn’t hesitate. I responded with, “Of course you can!” (or something like that) and in my heart, from that day on, the ring belonged to him.
I’ve always kept it safe with me throughout our many travels in its tiny, silk, cloth pouch. It’s lived in my jewelry box or bureau drawer or in the top of my closet in Independence, Missouri, Adelaide, Australia in the Golden Grove, Texas at 3 different addresses, 2 addresses in Northern California, and 5 addresses in Washington State.
For 20 years, it’s waited patiently for its rightful owner. Jared was married to his lovely wife, Heather, 3 years ago. He was waiting for the right occasion to finally give it to her, and decided this was the year.
So, just 9 days ago, on her birthday, Jared presented Heather with the lovely golden ring, set with garnet stones – which just happens to be Jared’s birthstone.
Here they are tonight at Jared’s 24th birthday celebration.
God has a way of sealing the deal, don’tcha think?!
In 90 minutes, I was headed out to a big holiday going-away party for some dear friends. I’d known about the party for weeks, but hadn’t decided what I’d be wearing. There I was at the last minute, texting my daughter-in-law pictures of all the items I’d pulled out of my closet, asking her advice. She’s one of those gifted people who can pull together an outfit from scraps and make it look like a million bucks. I was desperate and feeling very indecisive and somewhat frazzled. I’d had a big day with lots of other concerns to handle and the last thing I had energy for was fashion!
After a couple of texts, she sent the last one, “I’m coming over! I can stop quick and help you nail it. On my way!”
In moments there was a knock at the door and in burst our 19 month-old granddaughter, jabbering in excitement and her beautiful Momma, smiling. Hubby took the baby and my girl and I headed in to tackle our wardrobe issue. She triumphed in no time and began to describe how my make-up should look.
“Could you do it for me?” I asked a little sheepishly.
“YES!” she replied enthusiastically.
As I sat on the chair with my eyes closed, her make-up brush flying across my lids, the liner-pencil rolling along the lashes, I had to fight the tears working their way to the surface.
Here was my daughter, a busy wife, mommy, ad infinitum, in my house, at the spur-of-the-moment, giving up her time, caring for my needs on the eve of her 27th birthday, 2 hours before she was due to head out to her own holiday event – and she still had to get home and throw together some dinner for her family…and she was perfectly at peace. (How does she do that?!)
Melissa is one of my dearest friends. She is a loyal, thoughtful, generous, long suffering friend. She is grace in a package. She brings peace where ever she goes. She’s fun and free and godly and devoted. Her homemaking, wife and mommy skills astound me, and her wisdom has obviously been nurtured and developed as she’s lived in God’s Word. She’s as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. In jeans and a t-shirt, or her best party dress, she simply glows. I couldn’t have imagined how many upgrades God would add to the prayer list I had for the wife of my firstborn.
How could so much have come to me in one little package called Melissa Noelle? I didn’t know that just as I was beginning to learn to be a mommy to my own firstborn son in Omaha, Nebraska, 27 years ago, that this little angel, destined to marry my son and become my daughter, was about to be born in Seattle, Washington.
Here we are, watching His plan unfold. The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and it takes my breath away.
Happy Birthday my lovely daughter!
When I opened the envelope and read this little article (to the left) it moved me to tears. For real.
Can you imagine sitting in a prison cell day and night, separated from your children, due to your own bad choices? Worse yet, Christmas is coming and you don’t have any possible way to get your kids a decent gift?
So much about the Christmas holiday is about children. Their sweet, innocent nature, their eyes filled with wonder, their hope and faith that something will be ready and waiting for them, all wrapped up pretty at Christmas.
Prison Fellowship gives prisoners paperwork to fill out, months in advance, so that imprisoned parents can request that a nice gift be given to their child/children in their behalf, so that the kids know Daddy or Mommy didn’t forget them on Christmas.
This arm of Prison Fellowship is called Angel Tree. Their mission is to help breach the divide between incarcerated parents and their families. They are devoted to helping these families who are in such a critical state, and they are reaching so, so many hurting individuals.
When Sam or Sarah gets a really cool gift ‘from Daddy’ who’s far away in jail, and the gift is all wrapped and brand-new and something they actually wanted, it speaks volumes to the children about their father’s concern for them.
All Angel Tree needs is our money to fund their mission.
It takes $12.58 for Angel Tree to provide a high-quality gift to one child. They can stretch our money way beyond what we could do.
PLUS, right now, any dollar we give is DOUBLED by a matching fund someone has graciously provided.
That means for our check of $125.00 to Angel Tree, 20 children will receive gifts from Daddy or Mommy in prison this Christmas.
I think that’s a pretty good deal – where else could you get cool gifts for 20 needy kids at Christmas time for $125.00?
You may only be able to give $20.00. No worries, that will be doubled to make $40.00 worth of gifts for these kids.
Let’s make Christmas count!
Here it is, December 10th – just 14 days before The Big Day before THE BIG DAY arrives! I have to say I really do enjoy all the lights, and merry making and festivities galore this time of year. I was just at the local (spendy-trendy) grocery market a few minutes ago picking up some essentials for the weekend, and I was apparently grinning, observing all the little fun gift items they were selling for Christmas, the ‘cheer’ throughout the store, the sense of a party-about-to-happen…I didn’t realize what my face was doing, but a meat market guy yelled across the aisle, “it’s great to see someone shopping with a big smile on their face!”
But, I have to be honest. There’s an ache in my heart today for those who are not so blessed to have my reality. A husband of 31 years who adores me even though I know how to drive him nuts, a granddaughter who makes my heart sing just by being here, and gets to be right here with me quite often, two daughters-in-law that are not only relatives, but dear friends and true daughters. Five sons who not only put up with me, but think I’m pretty cool (loud laughter erupting!!!!) and a cluster of friends and acquaintances who bring me joy and bless our family with their kindness and friendship and generosity.
Right now, my heart is pained for a particular soul. (My heart is usually pained for many souls; somehow I have a gift for feeling – seriously – feeling, the pain of others and sometimes I wish I didn’t have the gift because it can really cause me distress. Even in the midst of my own gleeful moments, I’m often reminded of those all around me who are suffering, and I feel terribly frustrated that I can’t fix it.)
But this one is sitting heavy on my heart. My son happens to be well-acquainted with a particular guy, who, after a very rough ride in his young life, sincerely turned to God as of a few years back. However, he’s facing some pretty big issues at the moment, and in my estimation, he and his family are desperately needing God’s intervention, and I’m praying earnestly for a miracle and also pondering what part we’re to play in meeting at least a part of his need. At the end of the day, if all we can do is show some practical love, bring some cheer to a dismal season they’re facing, provide a few treats and surprises…to remind them that they are valuable to God and there is hope, that’s at least something, right?
Which brings me back to Christmas feeling like Christmas. To me, helping the poor, the lonely, the afflicted, the elderly, at Christmas, is one of the best ways to bring joy to our own hearts while we’re bringing joy to those who need us so much. We – most all of us – are spoiled first-world people with loads of stuff and at least some expendable income. Although we’ve all being affected pretty dramatically by this current global crisis of EVERYTHING SHAKING, many of us are still able to share something with others. So, the question is…
What are YOU going to share with someone who can’t repay you, this Christmas season?
A special frivolity for that mom who can’t afford to treat herself?
A home-cooked holiday meal and flowers for the old people next door?
Some fun, extravagant groceries for a single-parent family?
A secret sizeable Santa gift card for a teen who only dreams of a cool pair of Nikes or Levi’s?
There are so many needs around us, it can be overwhelming. We can’t meet every need, but we can do a small part that connects to the others doing their small part, culminating in massive little needs being met this holiday season, and love being multiplied exceedingly. Now, that sounds like Christmas to me!
Let’s look around and see who we can quietly, generously surprise. Maybe even anonymously if that’s the best way. You’ve only got about 14 days to make it by THE BIG DAY, THOUGH, so get on it! Just do it.
(to be continued)
Nostalgia often sweeps over me.
Perhaps it’s the artist who lives inside, or an over-active sentimental-feeling gene that gets activated by the simplest thing, but I gotta confess, I need the Christmas feeling.
SO . . . instead of waiting for it to hit me this year, I decided to MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Christmas is love and hugs and generosity and light and noise and joy and music and egg nog and cookies, right? So . . . first thing, my daughter and I planned a day-after-Thanksgiving cookie-bake time with latte-making privileges at my house. I have a high-end Delonghi Magnifica and I love to share it! We just said, “bring your dough to bake and your cookie sheets.” (To try to have everyone create their own dough at the same time in my kitchen with 12 people would be The Nightmare Before Christmas!) More than anything it was a time to be together, smile and talk and laugh. Lots of gals were busy with house guests and Black Friday shopping, but a handful showed up to hang out. Christmas feeling DONE!
Then, as we were talking about planning the above-described day, my girl suggested she arrive early and we create some decorative pine/evergreen swags together with glue guns, glitter and pine cones before the crowd hit. It was an idea we’d chatted about previously and I was GAME, because crafts = Christmas feelings for me! I worked for hoursssss on my precious little swag while my daughter baked batches of cookies, made everyone eggnog lattes and finished her swag AND a centerpiece in record time, all the while chatting! OMGosh . . . (She’s a Type A Get-It-Done-Now kinda’ girl.)
See what I’m saying??? The Christmas feeling was upon us in a big way that day . . . and of course, we played Christmas music in the background
THEN, although my other dear daughter wasn’t able to be there for our cookie-latte time due to a previous commitment, she arrived just as everyone else had left, brought my little angel granddaughter, and helped hubby decorate the tree, sipped an eggnog latte and helped me pick out a proper outfit for a festive occasion I had later that night . . .
Once again while the twinkle lights flickered and my granddaughter was throwing ornaments she thought were ‘pretty balls,’ I was feelin’ that Christmas vibe. . .
THEN . . . just last night, hubby and I had some frozen meatballs and manicotti, bought a gallon of spaghetti sauce from a local restaurant, invited some of our adult kids over and played Christmas jazz all night while we finished up decorating the house while delighting, once again, in our granddaughter’s antics. Toward the end of the evening my daughter persuaded me to actually BAKE the batter I’d made over a week earlier for our girl get-together. We rolled dough and chatted and voila’ there was that Christmas feeling once again!
Are you catching it? It’s not up to someone else to make it happen for us, we have the power to make it happen for ourselves and those we reach out to, by opening our homes, sharing our stuff and our food and goodies, and when we do that, Christmas shows up.
So . . . what are YOU gonna do?
(to be continued)
Hubby recently requested that I make Taco Soup. I’d forgotten about it, although it’s been a Mira Family Favorite for years. Soups have been a mainstay with our clan, probably because we’ve lived in lots of cities with cold winters and soups serve a crowd on a dime!
Taco Soup is extremely forgiving and flexible, which means it’s never the same for people like me who do spontaneous things and bend the rules on nearly every recipe. Smile. I’m going to post the real recipe someone in Texas gave me about 15 years ago during an ice storm when we lost all power for a couple of days. This sweet couple showed up with a pot of taco soup for us that cold, wintery day. They knew we had a houseful of boys and no electricity. Their generous gesture of love has never been forgotten.
I made a mental note of hubby’s request, and was suddenly inspired this morning by the pound of thawed ground beef I had sitting in the fridge. It was slated for a different dish that was supposed to be created on Wednesday, but Wednesday took a happy detour, so . . .
I didn’t follow the recipe today, but decided to use whatever I had on hand to create my soup. I diced an onion and crushed about 4 cloves of garlic and threw it in a soup pot to brown with the pound of raw ground beef. When that was cooked, *I added 6 cups of water, enough chicken bouillon to flavor the water, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of green chilies, a can of sliced black olives, a container of salsa I happened to have on hand, a tablespoon of taco seasoning, 2-3 cups of frozen corn, 3 cups of refried beans, 2 cups of frozen leftover spanish rice, and a pinch of sugar. I simmered it until it was well-heated, and served up a bowl with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a squeeze of hot sauce. YUM!
Now: here’s the formal recipe I almost never follow, but it is delicious if you happen to have all the stuff for it or you want to plan ahead and buy everything:
1 pound ground meat (brown and drain) [I've used diced chicken, ground turkey . . .]
2 cans whole pinto beans drained and rinsed [I risked and used homemade refrieds today . . . yum!]
1 can diced stewed tomatoes [this is simply tomatoes, green peppers and sugar, so I improvised today . . . ]
1 can diced Rotel tomatoes [this is a tomato-hot pepper combo so instead I used 2 cups of prepared salsa]
1 can cream style corn [didn't have any . . . ]
1 can whole kernel corn [just doubled this amount of frozen corn]
1 pkg taco seasoning [instead, you can use cumin powder and garlic powder]
1 pkg ranch dressing dry mix [instead, you can stir in a cup of ranch dressing at the end or stir a bit of sr. cream in each bowl like I do]
1 or 2 cans of water [I use a chicken broth for my base and add water if it's too strong of a flavor]
Mix all ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve topped with crushed tortilla chips and shredded cheese and fresh cilantro if you like.
Be free, toss in what suits you and most of all ENJOY! And, enjoy the free time you gain by making such a simple dish!
*I rarely drain my ground beef because it’s natural farm-raised cow, has no waste and delicious juices.
I don’t know what you call this uncanny occurrence, but I’m wondering if it had anything to do with that pesky black cat that ran across my path yesterday as I was driving. (Just kidding. I’m not superstitious, although I was raised to be . . .)
Anyhoo . . . so on Friday I decided to schedule a massage for my hubby. He absolutely loves to get a massage and I had a Groupon…
You DO know what Groupons are, right? If not, stop where you are and Google it. Groupons are a ‘special buy,’ promoted as an email newsflash sent to you every single day, letting you know some great deals to be had if you buy the coupon within a certain number of hours. No, I’m not advertising because I have nothing to gain, but I do enjoy my Groupons!
We just had a deeply-discounted dinner out on Friday night, compliments of a Groupon. Come to think of it, most of the Groupons I buy are food-related ha! (oops!) If I see one of our favorite eating-out spots featured as a Groupon, I click ‘buy,’ because it will usually cut the bill in a third to a half, and it’s likely that we’re going to eat there sooner or later, anyway, so it makes sense to buy ahead to save $$ later. Businesses love Groupons, too, because they bring new customers in their doors. (We’ve tried that, too. Some good, some not-so-good…)
Groupon will refund your money if for some reason you weren’t thrilled with your purchase. (I did have to return one of mine; just one, though…)
So, my daughter texted me that this particular chiropractic place had massages at half price. But this was a Living Social. NOT to be confused with Groupons. Living Social is the same principle as Groupon, just a different company you sign up with and also receive daily email alerts. I’ve purchased a few of those, too. But, I was so busy traveling out of state that day, and I didn’t get time to buy the massage offer my daughter told me about…dang. Just too much pressure…
But whoo-hoo! A month later, the same massage Groupon popped up! It appeared to be the same location and it also happened to be the place we’d begun to get chiropractic care (or so I thought) so I bought it on the spot. $25.00 for an hour-long massage from a great chiropractic office? Why not?
When you buy a Groupon or a Living Social, they are stored in a file in cyberspace under your personal account. You can download an app on your smart phone and pull them up electronically when you’re at the place of business, or just download them on your computer at home, print them off and use a paper copy. (Am I sounding technologically saavy at this point? If so, don’t be led astray; I am quite the novice, but I love to eat, so, I must learn!)
Back to Friday. Hubby and I were flying out the door to an appointment, so I downloaded the Living Social coupon, printed it off and took it with me, because for some reason I couldn’t log in on my iPhone because I could not recall my password and the smartphone app will not help you reset your password for your Living Social account. I had tried this in vain the week before when we were trying to eat (there we go again!) at a new restaurant with a Living Social coupon I had purchased, but I couldn’t crack the code to GET to the coupon because I couldn’t recall my password. So we had to eat elsewhere. (See, I am technologically challenged!)
So we’re busily on our way and I’m on the phone scheduling the massage for hubby. (BTW is wasn’t our chiropractic office after all. Similar name!) I kept giving the lady the coupon number and she couldn’t find it and she couldn’t find my name or hubby’s name on the electronic coupon list.
I said, “Don’t worry. I’m looking at the coupon; it’s in my hand, really. Trust me. Hubby will bring the coupon in when he gets his massage and you will have it.” So she complied, with a little hesitation…
Suddenly the appointment was upon us today. Hubby is a guy who crosses his ‘t’s’ and dots his ‘i’s and he said with a tone of ‘command’ in his voice, “So, I’m set, right? Coupon is in the car, right?” Suddenly a tiny little alarm went off within my heart…
I had a déjà vu. I was reminded of a day a few weeks ago when my son flew in the door, on his way to a massage, needing to print off a Living Social coupon. He was on my laptop, struggling with the account, calling his wife, etc., and finally printed and flew out the door. His name was on my coupon, the coupon I was sending with my hubby…
Oops. Did I print off his coupon, that had already been used at this massage center and this was why it couldn’t be found? (Downloads can be printed over and over again; they never appear to have been ‘used.’) OMGosh, hubby is supposed to be walking out the door NOW. He hates hate hates to be late. If he hands them a used coupon, he will never recover…
I got on Living Social and clicked on ‘my coupons,’ and…um…his wife and his name were on the coupons. Ooops again. It all swept over me in a wave of…gulp…sudden awareness. I was in their account…
I signed out of the account and tried to sign into mine. I couldn’t recall my password! (That’s what often happens when people borrow my laptop. They don’t log out of their accounts and often I can’t recall my password to log myself back IN)…hyperventilating by this time…
I quickly reset my password and got to my Living Socials. I clicked on ‘my coupons’ and scanned quickly to find my massage coupon. There wasn’t one.
OMGosh…sweating bullets. I quickly pulled up my Groupons. There is the massage coupon! Yeah! But…wait…it’s not the same place. It has a name so very close to the other business but it’s NOT THE SAME ONE…
Which means I have scheduled a massage with no coupon special. Not so good. I phone them quickly, trying to tell them this twisted tale of woe, expressing my deepest heartfelt regrets and remorse for wasting the massage man’s time, asking how I can make it right – could I pay them the full Living Social price without the middleman, plus a nice tip and we call it ‘done?’
The ice cube at the other end was hemming and hawing and indicating I would certainly go to hell for this mistake. I couldn’t be sorrier. It was my fault. Did she want blood???? I gave her my name, phone and SSN (kidding). She pressed her boney pointy finger on the button and stuck me on hold before I could tell her I didn’t have time to be on hold. I hung up.
I apologized profusely to hubby and shook it off, a bit dizzied by the entire experience. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere….for now it will have to be ‘the massage that wasn’t…’
The ice cube never did call me back. Hmm. And she had the perfect opportunity to secure a brand-new client if only she’d have been gracious on the phone.
Our fall here in the Pacific Northwest is beyond beautiful this year. We were pretty sun-deprived in the early part of summer, but since mid-August, we’ve had some great weather.
Sunshine always seems to make people smile and puts a spring in their step, don’tcha think? Perhaps you don’t notice, because you have sun all the time…
Sunshine in the fall, with the leaves turning brilliant shades of crimson, orange, and gold, is just stunning. Everywhere I walk, it’s hard not to stop to take another picture of the leaves!
Indulge me just a moment, won’t you?
Here are a few of my favs…
Hubby and I were sitting enjoying our snack and chatting, when we saw this. At first glance, it looks like Mom, Dad and the two kids are out for some together time. I’m assuming (and, I could be wrong…) that after an 8+ hour work day, the folks picked up the kids from an 8+ hour school-day, (or the bus dropped them off) and they whisked out the door to connect around a cozy meal at the nearby cafe. Dad and Mom are fully engaged with their smart phones; the waitress is talking to the kids. Kinda’ sad if this is our lifestyle. We’re all guilty at times…let’s try harder to unplug when we should.