Christmas Bells Still Ringing — from the Pen of a Poet

 

Christmas Bells

Over the past couple weeks I have encountered Henry Wadsworth Longfellow twice. I picked up a coffee table book at a home I was visiting. The book had beautiful photos, enticing recipes and quotes from famous writers. One of the quotes was from Longfellow and I wrote it down.  I was touched by his words about gardens.  (The quote  will  appear in a future post.)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Jennifer Chiaverini’s novel,  Christmas Bells, gives vignettes of       Longfellow’s life. He encountered tragedy and lived through the pain and turmoil of the Civil War. Towards the end of the Civil War he wrote the poem, “Christmas Bells”. You may have heard it sung. The first line is “I heard the bells on Christmas Day . . .”

The scenes from Longfellow’s life are paired with the story of a modern day family. It was a little challenging for me to grasp the structure of the story at first. This modern story was composed of one scene viewed from the perspective of about six people. Each sees the events that take place a little differently during a children’s choir rehearsal. They are singing “Christmas Bells” of course.

I was really pleased to read the history behind the poem, “Christmas Bells” and I am inspired to read more of Longfellow’s poetry. Personal tragedy and the war almost drove the poet to despair, but he finished his poem with this stanza.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead: nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Note: The photo of the bells and the engraving of Longfellow are via Wikimedia Commons and are public domain.

Linking with Friendship Friday,  Literacy Musing MondayBooknificent ThursdayWholehearted Wednesday, A Little R & R, and Hope in Every Season.

Pasties and Pickles for a Complete Meal

Over the Christmas holidays my husband I traveled first to Michigan where we spent Christmas with my mother, sister and brother. After a brief interlude at home we drove to a town west of St. Louis, Missouri. We rented a house near Lake Sherwood and all of our children and grandchildren joined us. We had some great family time during our four days together.

Lake Sherwood

We had time for many conversations, a walk along the road, board games and a day of adventure at the City Museum in St. Louis. We took turns providing meals. I chose to make the family favorite meal, pasties—well, a favorite among the adults. The nice thing about this meal is that I was able to make the pasties ahead of time, freeze them and bring them along as a ready meal. I let them thaw in the refrigerator at our rental and then baked them for 40 minutes to heat them through. To appease the children I left the onions out of the pasties and included dill pickles as a side dish.

Pasties are a traditional meal in Upper Michigan. The copper miners would take these meat & potato filled pies with them for a meal in the mine. The shops in Upper Michigan still sell them. I have posted the recipe before, but here it is again.

Pastry:

3 C. flour
½ tsp. salt
2/3 C. shortening
1 egg yolk
½ C + 2 Tblsp. cold water
1 Tblsp. cider vinegar

Combine flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it appears as coarse crumbs.

Mix the egg yolk, water and vinegar. Gradually add this to the flour mixture, stirring with a fork. Mix just until it holds together. If needed, add additional water a tablespoon at a time.

Divide the dough into six portions and roll out each portion to a 9” circle.

Filling:

1 lb. round steak, diced or coarsely ground
1 C. rutabaga, chopped
½ C. finely chopped onion
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 rounded tsp. salt
Pepper (optional)

Place a generous cup of filling on half of each dough circle. Fold the other half of dough over the filling and crimp the edges. Place the pasties on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serve hot.

Pasty

If you are planning to freeze the pasties and reheat them later, the bake time can be reduced to 50 minutes.

The dill pickles were a hit. I made them using cucumbers from one sister’s garden, garlic from another sister’s garden and dill from my garden. I came across the recipe for a small batch of pickles here.

Linking with From the Farm,  Titus 2sdays,  Tuesdays with a Twist, the Art of Homemaking,  Friendship Friday and Family Friendship & Faith Link-up

One Word for the New Year

The practice of choosing one word  for  the  New Year  has been an    inspiration for me. Last year my word was gracious, and having this word in mind I was more conscious of my conversation and actions. I paused a little more, seeking kind words. I have been thinking and praying about one word for 2016.

Relationships are on my mind.  I would like to see greater depth in   relationships and openness to new relationships.  Could I grow and  assist others to grow? In the book of Ephesians Paul writes about good work.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.            Ephesians 2:10

The key words in this verse are in Christ Jesus. The good work is possible through Jesus. And so my life needs to be centered on Jesus, drawing strength from a vital relationship with Jesus. Jesus tells us:

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes that it may bear more fruit. John 15: 1-2

Images from my garden come to mind. The fruit produced by the raspberry bushes in my yard is a delight.

Red Raspberries 2

In my relationships I desire positive growth, willing to be pruned. This means more time in prayer.

With these thoughts in mind, I have chosen the word fruitful. Have you chosen a word for 2016?

Linking with Sharing His Beauty,  Weekend Whispers,  Essential FridaysSitting Among FriendsGrowing in GraceA Little R & RWholeHearted Wednesday,  Hope in Every SeasonTitus 2sday,  Monday Musings and Word of God Speak

Flowers and Wreaths at the Chicago Botanical Garden

We had a lovely afternoon at the Chicago Botanical Garden. The flowers were in bloom in the conservatories. Lovely wreaths adorned the walls. Poinsettias lined the displays and were hanging from the ceiling! A variety of trains were on display as a Christmas exhibit. The miniature trains travel on tracks through scenes of Chicago.

Blue Hydrangeas at Chicago Botanical Garden

Chicago Botanical Garden

Pointsettas

Chicago Botanical Garden

Christmas Train Exhibit

Linking with Whole Hearted Home, A Little R & RTuesdays with a Twist, Titus 2sdays and Sue’s Wordless Wednesday

Healthy Orange Spice Cookies

 

L of L

My mother grew up on a small Finnish farm in Upper Michigan. At Christmas she would remind us that oranges are a special treat. When she was a girl her family had oranges only on Christmas. As a tradition we always received an orange in our Christmas stocking.

When I saw a recipe that included orange zest in a molasses cookie—in the newspaper—I had to try it.   Then I tweaked the recipe to  my   liking. Finnish spice cookies sometimes include rye flour, so I substituted rye flour for some of the flour.

Ingredients:

5 Tblsp. unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 Tblsp. grated orange zest*
1/3-cup dark unsulfured molasses
1 egg yolk
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 + ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 + ½ tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. cloves
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
½ tsp. salt
1 + ½ cup quick oats
¾ cup rye four
1 + ¾ cup unbleached white flour

Coating:

1 egg white, beaten with a fork until frothy
1 Tblsp. grated orange zest*
½ cup turbinado sugar
Thoroughly combine the sugar and orange zest.

*For the orange zest I used one orange and grated the outer peel,      mincing it fine.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

In a large bowl beat the butter and honey until creamy. Add the brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons orange zest and beat for a couple more minutes.

Add the molasses, applesauce, egg yolk  (reserve the egg white),      vanilla, baking soda, spices and salt. Beat mixture until well combined. With a wooden spoon stir in the oats, white flour and rye flour. The dough will be a little sticky. If you want you can put the dough in the refrigerator for a half hour and it will be easier to handle.

Use a teaspoon to scoop a round of dough and form into a ball. Dip it into the egg white and then the turbinado sugar with orange zest. Place it on the cookie sheet. The cookies should be spaced about one inch apart.

Bake the cookies until the edges are set, beginning to brown and the tops are cracked. Depending on the size of the cookie, the baking time will be 10 to 15 minutes. The center of the cookie will be soft. Enjoy! These are great with a cup of coffee.

Orange Spice Cookies

Linking with From the Farm,  WholeHearted Home, A Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a Twist, the Homemaking Party,  Titus 2sday,  Motivation Monday,  the Art of Homemaking and MYHSM

We went to see Star Wars

Star Wars

Who is your favorite character in Star Wars? When Han Solo and then R2– D2 made their appearance in the new movie the audience gave them a round of applause. The first Star Wars movie came out during the first year of my marriage. I saw it with my husband. The scenes were amazing and we were engrossed in the story. Later we watched episodes with our children.

When my husband suggested that we see episode VII on opening night I realized that the evening was open. The local theater had a continuum of times available. So we went. How would this movie compare with the others?

Leia and Han Solo have aged—as we have. Young people, a new generation, carried the action. They wondered at the old stories. Were they legend or true?

The narrative of Star Wars is based on the truth that  good  and  evil  exist. The quest for truth  and  rightness is tucked deep in our soul. Sometimes we have to fight for it.

The grief and pain of “the dark side” is also true.

While Star Wars refers to “the force”, the Bible teaches us about our God. The prophet Jeremiah lived through a tumultuous time on earth and clearly stated the source of truth and rightness.

This is what the Lord says:

Cursed is the one who trusts in man and who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He will be like a bush in the wastelands;

He will not see prosperity when it comes.

He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.

He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

“I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”                 Jeremiah 17: 5-10

Jeremiah suffered physically.  He did not have material gain  but he   understood spiritual life. God is the source of our strength and joy.

We went to Christmas concerts and programs this December—and Star Wars. Our joy and strength comes from God’s great gift. Jesus came to redeem us! We have much to celebrate this Christmas season.

Linking with Words with WinterA Little R & R,  Titus 2sday, Tuesdays with a Twist,  Word of God SpeakWeekend Whispers, WholeHearted HomeGrace & TruthEssential Fridays, Friendship Friday , Faith Filled Friday and Faith & Friends.

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A Rose, Love and the Savior are in this Old Carol

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming

The violins, piano and voices of the choir gave a beautiful rendition of an old German carol. I was swept away from the news reports and troubles in our community. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Here are the lyrics to this carol, Lo How A Rose:

Low, how a rose e’er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As saints of old hath sung.

It came a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter.
When half spent was the night.

Isaiah foretold it.
The rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it
The virgins mother kind.

To show God’s love aright
She bore to us a Savior
When half spent was the night,
When half spent was the night.

O Rose, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel in glorious splendor
The darkness everywhere.

True man, yet very God.
From sin and death now save us
And share our every load.

Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Alleluia
Sing alleluia

A Rose, Love and A Savior

The apostle Peter knew much about the troubles in this world. He had walked with Jesus and had seen the crucifixion. He saw the empty tomb and the risen Lord. He had shared a meal with Jesus after the resurrection. He was there when Jesus instructed the disciples to make disciples of all nations. Peter had been in prison for his faith and from his experiences he wrote:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxious cares on him, because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5: 6-7

We have so much to celebrate! Tomorrow night we will go to our grandchildren’s Christmas program. Each year adds new memories. I still remember the Christmas programs that I participated in as a child.  It is a blessing to see the grandchildren singing carols  and     reciting scripture verses.

Linking with Grace & Truth,  Essential Fridays,  Titus 2sday,  Hope in Every Season,  WholeHearted WednesdayA Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a TwistInspire Me Monday,  Soul Survival,  Reflect, the Art of Homemaking and Word of God Speak

The Family is Under Attack

The school board in my town met, and the community was invited. The federal government—specifically the Office of Civil Rights— has demanded that a transgender student be given full access to female locker rooms and restrooms.

School District 211

The meeting place, a high school cafeteria,  was packed.  Seats      extended to the back wall and people were standing at both sides of the room. The meeting was intended for residents of the school district but a large contingent of the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community from the surrounding towns and city of Chicago showed up. They were carrying placards and wearing stickers in support of the transgender student.

Attendees were allowed to sign up for a 3-minute speaking slot, to express their opinion to the school board. When the first three speakers were from the LGBT group a gentleman called for a point of order. He walked toward the front of the room and stated that speakers should be living in the school district. The school board president asked him to sit down or be escorted out of the room.

My heart ached  as  one transgender or adult homosexual partner   after another testified to the pain in their life. And when a teenage girl said that she had just discovered that she was bisexual, she was given a round of applause.

A doctor said that it is impossible to distinguish the gender of an individual from their anatomy. Instead there are some internal markers. Really?

Teenage girls stood up to explain their discomfort and the awkwardness of having a transgender student in the locker room when they shower and change for swimming class.

Fathers spoke up in defense of their daughters. Teenage girls have a right to privacy.

One speaker for the LGBT community said that times have changed. The standards that we once had no longer exist. It is a new age.

The air was heavy and I tried to pray.

An article titled Educating for the Kingdom by Gerhard Cardinal Müller is in the current issue of Plough. Müller writes:

Rather, education is the entrusting of a gift from one generation to the next. The older generation’s accumulated culture, learning and skills are given as an unearned gift to the younger. But this gift also carries a responsibility: the younger generation must make the gift a reality in their own lives.

Overnight I have been wrestling with thoughts about the meeting. Families are breaking down. Divorce and single parent families are common. Children are susceptible to deception. We are experiencing spiritual warfare. Images from the Lord of the Rings come to mind. Remember the black riders? They were trying to get Frodo. In place of Frodo, I could visualize them seeking to destroy the family.

Pray for families.

Pray  for  the teens that are seeing so many distorted versions of    sexuality.

Pray for wisdom, compassion and kindness in sharing the truth of God’s design of the family.   God is good, and His ways are for our   benefit.

A Flower that Survives the Snowstorms

It is December in Illinois, and throughout our neighborhood there are winter decorations.

December_4882

We have a wreath on our door.

Christmas

My display of angels celebrating the birth of Jesus is in our foyer.

Christmas

We have had two snowstorms and to my surprise the calendula flower has two buds. It may still bloom! I love this flower.

Calendula survies snowstorms
Calendula Buds

Linking with Friendship Friday,  A Little R & R,  Tuesdays with a Twist and Sue’s Wordless

image-in-ing

Christmas Cards for the Persecuted Church

 

handshake-584105_1280

Do the images of refugees fleeing Syria tug at your heart? Have you seen news reports of churches destroyed in Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and other countries?

We are blessed in the United States although the tragedies taking place around the world touch us too. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado and the horrible massacre in San Bernadino are a grievous loss of life.

But we don’t have the level of persecution that is taking place in Africa and the Middle East. Is there anything we can do?

On Sunday morning we had a speaker from the Voice of the Martyrs. This organization provides support to the persecuted Church. We can pray for believers that have been imprisoned for their faith by name. Click here to go to the site provided by VOM.

Next Sunday members of our church will devote an hour to writing Christmas cards that will be sent to prisoners.  The site mentioned above takes you through the process of writing a message in the      prisoner’s language and provides addresses.

credit: antiqueclipart.com
credit: antiqueclipart.com

I am pleased that Voice of the Martyrs also has a website with items that can be purchased as gifts. Buying items from the store or giving a donation supports the work of this organization. Click here.

It was a blessing to hear stories about the people that are turning to the Lord in the face of persecution. An article in the current VOM newsletter is titled, Great Evil, Great Revival.  The article describes the persecution AND the revival taking place in evangelical churches. Our speaker told us about an ISIS soldier that has become a Christian, about Moslems that are reading the Bible and seeking truth.

We can pray for many more to be saved, for God to be glorified and for the endurance of all believers!

Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-3

Linking with Essential FridaysThought Provoking Thursday,  A Little R & R,  Worshipful WednesdayWholeHearted WednesdaySoul Survival,  Reflect and the Art of Homemaking