"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Re-post)

We set up our Christmas tree yesterday. Sometimes it's too easy to go through the motions without thinking of the true miracle of Jesus's birth. As I do every year, I try to get my kids (and myself) to think of why we do what we do during the Christmas season. This is a post I've taken from last year. It's the story behind that famous holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Hopefully it will be a great start to giving meaning to the season.

During the sixteenth century, British Catholics were forbidden to practice their faith. Those who broke this law were put into prison, or, if the crime proved severe enough, they would be hung or drawn and quartered. Still, millions refused to abandon their faith and went underground. The Twelve Days of Christmas was a song teaching Catholic children the doctrine of the church. So what do golden rings or a partridge in a pear tree have to do with things of spiritual importance? Keep reading and you may never think of this song the same again.

The children were taught that only pure and true love came from God, so this song was about a heavenly love, not about a boy’s crush on a girl.

Single partridge in a pear tree—A mother partridge lures enemies away from her defenseless chicks in order to protect them. As she sacrifices her own life for her children, so did Christ for us. The pear tree is a symbol of the cross on which Jesus died.

Two turtle doves—symbols of truth and peace, representing the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens—in the sixteenth century, these were expensive food items reserved for the wealthy. These represent the gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought to the newborn king by the wise men.

Four calling birds—the four authors who told the story of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Five golden rings—stood for the five Old Testament books known as the “law of Moses.” These were to remind the singer of man’s fall from grace, and the awesome fact that a Savior would indeed come to offer salvation.

Six geese a-laying—eggs are a symbol for new life. These six represents how God made the world in six days.

Seven swans a-swimming—the gifts of the Holy Spirit—prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy.

Eight maids a-milking—represents the common man (or woman) whom Christ had come to serve and save. The number eight also represents the beatitudes listed in Matthew: blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker, and the righteous.

Nine ladies dancing—the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Ten lords a-leaping—the Ten Commandments, represented by lords, who were honorable men and the voice of law in their domain.

Eleven pipers piping—Jesus’ eleven true apostles who took the message of his life and resurrection to the world.

Twelve drummers drumming—symbolizes “The Apostles’ Creed,” taught to all Catholics, containing a dozen different elements.

There you have it—so much more than a silly holiday song, after all. If this song comes dancing across your radio this week, may it be yet another reminder of the true meaning of Christmas!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fun Thanksgiving Facts

I found these fun Thanksgiving/turkey facts at www.1800flowers.com. Happy Thanksgiving!

Americans feast on 535 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving.

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 45 million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the United States at Thanksgiving. That number represents one sixth of all the turkeys sold in the U.S. each year!

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird.

Domesticated turkeys cannot fly, however wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles per hour over short distances.

Only male (tom) turkeys gobble. Females make a clicking noise. The famous gobble is actually a seasonal mating call.

The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed in at 86 pounds – about the size of a German Shepherd! (But turkeys are normally not used as police animals.)

The Turkey Trot, a ballroom dance in the 1900s, was named for the short, jerky steps of the turkey. It became popular mainly because it was denounced by the Vatican as "suggestive."

Turkeys are known to spend the night in trees! (Maybe to escape the Thanksgiving table?)

Turkeys can drown if they look up when it's raining!

A turkey's field of vision is 270 degrees--one of the main reasons they're able to elude some hunters.

The average age of the Mayflower passenger was 32. The oldest Mayflower passenger was 64.

There was no milk, cheese, bread, butter or pumpkin pie at the original Thanksgiving Day feast.

Contrary to popular belief, the Pilgrims did not have big buckles on their clothing, shoes, or hats.

Buckles did not come into fashion until the late 1600s – more appropriate for the Salem Witchcraft trial time period.

The cranberry got its name because the pale pink blossoms on the plant resembled a crane’s head and neck. The name craneberry stuck, eventually becoming cranberry.

Fresh cranberries are ideal for cranberry sauce. Cranberries of the highest quality will always bounce! (If you try this at home, please wash the cranberries before eating.)

President Abraham Lincoln established the original date for our National Thanksgiving Day celebration in 1863.

President Thomas Jefferson scoffed at the idea of establishing a national “Thanksgiving Day.”

Congress did not declare Thanksgiving a national holiday until 1941.

The average person consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. (Now that's a lot of turkey!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Review: Sons of Thunder

Two brothers love her--but only one can have her heart.

Sofia Frangos is torn between the love of hot-headed, passionate Markos and his younger brother, quiet, intelligent Dino. Markos longs to honor his family. Dino wants to forget the tragedy that drove them from their Greek home to the shores of America. One brother offers the past she loves...the other, a future. Which "Son of Thunder" will she choose? From Chicago's sultry jazz-era clubs...to Europe's World War II battlefields...to a final showdown on a Greek island, the Sons of Thunder discover betrayal, sacrifice--and finally...redemption.

My Review: When disaster comes in the form of death and guilt, brothers Markos and Dino Stavros flee their Greek island home with Sofia Frangos, leaving their families and all they've ever known behind. Determined to protect his sweetheart, Sofia, and his younger brother, Dino, in America, Markos flirts with danger out of desperation. The result is another separation--and this time, Markos is the one left behind.

Sons of Thunder was about so much more than a tangled love triangle. Susan May Warren is a truly gifted storyteller, breathing life into each character and setting with unique beauty. I couldn't help but care about each of these people as I anxiously flipped through the pages of this book. There is much Christian fiction out there that shies away from difficult circumstances and real-life situations, but this book is definitely not one of them.

Sons of Thunder plucked chords of emotion deep in my heart with each page. Unpredictable, emotional, passionate, and beautiful. This is romantic suspense at its best!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Let's Talk Money

With the holidays fast approaching, I thought it would be beneficial to exchange some money saving tips. While I am far from an authority on this topic, I've definitely learned how to stretch a dollar over the past five years, as my husband and I have juggled a family of four and a generous mortgage payment on a single income. Here's a few strategies I've found helpful.

1) Forget the Joneses. Focus on building character into your family instead of a pile of possessions. While there's nothing wrong with cable television, Wiis, Kindles and new cars, our family chooses to do without in order to pinch the pennies.

2) Cut the dryer sheets in half. And experiment with other household products. You might be surprised to find out you don't need to fill the laundry detergent up to that recommended line to attain clean clothes. See what works and what doesn't. My dishwasher gets angry with me when I don't use enough soap. My furniture stays happy with just a touch of dust polish.

3) Snip coupons. You can even print them out online.

4) Anticipate your medical needs. Medical insurance can be a big expense. A Today Show article featuring Wendy Nice Barns, a consumer health insurance expert from eHealthInsurance.com, suggests watching out-of-pocket costs. “If you visit the doctor frequently, these can add up," Wendy says. "If you don’t visit the doctor but a few times a year, it may save you to look for a plan with a higher co-pay and lower premium." Wendy also recommends considering a high-deductible plan if you expect your medical expenses to be low.

5) Hold that tax refund check! While it might be exciting to get that big check of "extra money" in April, it may prove smarter to pay off credit cards or even pay ahead on bills. Save yourself a hefty chunk of interest on your mortgage by paying extra on your principal balance. Even auto insurance policies charge a small service fee each month that allows you to spread out your payments. Save some cash by paying ahead.

6) While we're on the topic of credit cards... Financial advisor Dave Ramsey (host of The Dave Ramsey Show and author of The Total Money Makeover) suggests staying away from these. I think most of us would agree. Yet if you're good with your money, these little plastic cards might be able to work for you instead of against you via a rewards program. The only credit card my husband and I own is a Home Rebate card from Citi Cards that pays 1% of our purchases directly to the principal on our mortgage. Many clothing stores also have a similar rewards program. WARNING: These cards are only beneficial if you pay off your credit card balance every month!

7) Give yourself a cash allowance. Decide what you and your family will buy with cash (take-out food, movie rentals, Dunkin Donuts coffee, etc.) and what you will not. Stick to this along with a planned budget and you'll never have to answer the question, "Where is my money going?"

8) Slim down the grocery trips. If you're running to the store every couple of days, chances are you're buying more than you need. One woman on KLove radio said she makes a menu plan for an entire month, buys for the month, and then takes short, once a week trips for fruits, veggies, and milk. She claims she cut her grocery bill in half. Anxious to try this one!

As far as food, my family has been known to have eggs for dinner. We skip many brand-names products and buy DiGiorno instead of Pizza Hut.

9) Turn off the lights. Your mother nagged you for a reason. Electricity is expensive!

10) Read Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover. Dave dispels money myths and outlines steps to financial freedom. Most libraries have this book. Read it!

I hope something I've written is helpful to you. Now, if you're willing to help me...do you have any money saving tips you would be willing to share?