Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve & I just wanted to take a moment this morning to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas from our home to yours!  I hope 'Santa' is good to you this year. 

We will have a white Christmas here in the Mountain State (with a predicted 2-4" of new fallen snow by morn) and, for many, that's a Christmas wish come true.  Having grown up in SoCal I prefer a Christmas in the mid 70's with lots of sunshine ;)

 Gals at the annual Christmas cookie swap gals @ The Blankenship Home, Dec. 17th, 2010

 The stockings were hung by the 'chimney' with care!

 My angel-grandgirlies are growing up so quickly. They were both part of the 'Little Angel Choir' in our church play this year -- 'Angels on Assignment'

Emmy Rae with her teddy @ this year's Christmas program at her school.  She's in Kindergarten (sniff, sniff) -- how that happened so fast is a mystery to her Nana!

I can only imagine that next week, being the last week of  2010, will be one of deep reflection for the majority of us ladies -- we tend to do that don't we? I pray your reminscing brings back wonderful memories & few regrets.  The Lord has certainly been good to my family this year (& in all the year's past!). Praying for you & your families now & in the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Traditions ... they comfort me!

Let me begin by saying "I love Christmas".  Few things make me feel as warm, cozy & loved as being surrounded by family at our home for Christmas Eve dinner.  It's tradition. We've lived here for 26 years now and for just as many years our families have gathered at the Dial Home for dinner and to exchange gifts.  As our children turned into teens & their friends got their drivers license, it wasn't unusual for them to drop in and they were always welcome!  My oldest son had a friend who showed up for so many years (even after he joined the service) that the first year he didn't show, several asked "Where's Travis"? 

Our Fall Creek Christmas Eves are a tradition born of love and ... compromise. "Compromise?" you say ... well, yes.  When I was growing up Christmas Eve was really just another night at the house with one exception -- Daddy would take us to Downey, a wealthy community near our home in Southern California ('The Carpentars' lived there!) whose residents went all out.  It was always so lovely and still one of my favorite childhood memories.  Then it was back to the house where we were sure to go to bed relatively early in anticipation of Santa's visit (in our new PJ's so we'd look our best for Christmas morning pics!).  My brother (who was 7 years my junior) & I were, as you might suspect, early risers on December 25th. I can still hear his voice "Sissy, he came" and then, it was on -- stockings were always first then onto the gifts.  Oh yeah and somewhere in between we had to wake up mom & dad so that mom 'could see our faces'.  My brother Ray & I are still big believers! As far as I'm concerned when you stop believing you're in danger of not receiving (wink, wink) ... & I think I'm onto something because jolly ol' St. Nick fills my stocking full and I awake to wonderfulness every Christmas morn. So I ask you, why would I ever doubt? No reason that I can think of! ;)

My hubby's childhood Christmases were quite different, in that Christmas Eve was the big event! Santa even came to his house and delivered his gifts first (while his family was at dinner at his paternal great-grandfather's home "Poppy").  His dad explained the reason for Santa's early visitation to Branchland was because Ol' Kris Kringle had a long night ahead of him and well, why not stop at Branchland first? It worked out perfectly ... that way Roger  was able to enjoy his gifts that evening before the family, once again, went to visit, this time to Wayne County to see his maternal grandparents on Christmas Day.

When we married, I couldn't imagine Santa not coming in the night, slipping quietyly into our home to leave gifts & fill stockings but I didn't want to throw his childhood remembrances and traditions out without a thought so .... hmmmmm, what to do? What to do? I know! We'll combine them ... ah hah, a compromise ... perfect!  Thus began our tradition .... we would have dinner & exchange gifts with friends & family on Christmas Eve but Santa would fill stockings and leave more gifts in the night ... I was onto something!

In the early years of our marriage, my MIL still lived in the area and we spent Christmas Eve at her home and exchanged and opened presents, ate dessert and then we were back to our home to get to bed early and awake to Santa gifts.  My parents & brother were invited as well because, you know the story, they never did anything on Christmas Eve any way (even after our move back East).  Christmas day would be at my parent's home and we'd have dinner there and open more gifts and another stocking was filled! (I love Santa! ;)

So 1984 was the first year we hosted Christmas Eve dinner (I had never baked a turkey before, much less all the trimmings!) and it was wonderful ... so wonderful it's continued all these years. My boys, who are now 30 & 28, were only 4 & 2 then ... where has the time gone? I have no idea :/ but we have wonderful memories of all those years.  Our family has grown and my kitchen, dining room and living room are filled .... we love it!  Our two sons have multiplied and together, with their wives & children, now number 7, my brother is now 3 instead of 1 (and BTW, we will have another little one Christmas 2011 as my SIL is expecting their 2nd child in August!) ... you get the jest of it .... families grow and hey, isn't that what they are supposed to do? Yes!

My goal is that one day my grandbabies will speak of fond remembrances of Christmas Eve on Fall Creek at Nana & Papaw's.  I know both of my boys have wonderful childhood Christmas memories, of that I am certain.  While some rebel against tradition, I embrace it. I love it. It comforts me.  This year will be the third without our oldest son and his family as the Navy had other plans. I have to work on not being sad and I can't tell you how much they are missed. I trust the Lord completely and believe that soon they'll be back here with us for on Fall Creek for our traditional family Christmas Eve safe & sound.

Oh my, I almost forgot to mention a tradition Roger & I begin with our boys very early on. After dinner and before the first gift is opened, the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2: 1-20 is read as a reminder of why we gather and exchange gifts ... to celebrate the birth of Christ, our Savior! 

Wishing you all a very "Merry Christmas" & choice blessings to you & yours now & in the coming new year!

Here's my heart ... our precious grandgirlies ...
Emmy, KyKy & Boochie
Adorable Christmas Elves! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Melancholy Mama ...

Melancholy. There are quite a few definitions for this word, some with negative connotations.  The one that best suits my mood is "soberly thoughtful, pensive". Is it possible to place 'thankful' in there as well? Does it fit? Hmm, I don't know if it's proper but it is appropriate.  This week has been one of deep thought about the past, present & future.  Admittedly, there was a catalyst for the present mode I'm in. While, initially, "I can't believe I'm back here again" came to mind, I've decided that it's actually productive to take a good long look at where I came from, where I've been, the people that were so instrumental in molding me into the 'Me' I became.  I believe that everyone who has ever been a part of your life, big or small, has brought something to the table.  Not everyone brings the most appetizing dish. Some taste great but look bad. Some are very appealing but end up leaving a bad taste in your mouth and still others upset your stomach so badly you can't imagine what purpose the pain could possibly serve, only to find, years later, that 'Pepto moment' was an excellent learning tool, life defining. Others are simply nutritious and necessary.  But everyone brings something.  Maybe the season has a bit to do with my mood as well.  Fall is my favorite season and brings out 'The Nester' in me.  Thoughts of scented candles, wonderful baked goodies in the oven, cozy quilts, a good book, sharing a cup of coffee with good friends and good conversation. I could go on forever but all those things provoke me to thought. Perhaps it's because we slow down from the busyness of Summer with it's cookouts, pool parties, reunions, visits from faraway family and we find we have time to ponder a few things. Looking back causes me to think about the present.  You know the saying "I may not have gone where I intended to go but I think I ended up where I intended to be"? I love that and isn't is true for most, if not all, of us? I think so. I've been blessed with a great life. Raised by parents who loved me, married to a man who still adores me and who I love more today than ever, two children who brought me more happiness than any one woman deserves and have turned into awesome men that make their momma very proud, three grandgirls -- so giggly & sweet -- who love me every bit as much as I love them (& that's a whole lot of love!). Yep, God has been very good to me.  Then there's the future -- our lives, our Nation, our world. I, occasionally, have moments of internal panic -- watching the news & all the talk of the rising cost of living, the election and just the state of the world in general (especially with a son on a warship God only knows where - literally) then I remember the big picture -- the same God who's been so good to me and loves me so much, is still in control and is not panicked by my imagined emergency of the way things appear to be-- then I feel His prescence and I know everything is gonna be all right.  "Lord I appreciate You. My heart is full with love for You. You're a Father with my well-being in mind. What's important to me is equally important to You. Thank you for saving me from myself in times past, present and future. I trust you totally.  I love you".... He's a good God & I'm a blessed woman.

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's been a while...

Life's just got a way of getting in the way of getting in the way, doesn't it?  It's been a busy month, full of lots & lots to do.  We just had our annual Youthfest at church and that required lots of practice, planning & preparation.  Everything was great and went off without a hitch.  I couldn't have been more pleased with "Stirred".  The group as a whole had gone through some transition -- losing a few older, experienced members and gaining a few young ones -- which, of course, is what happens but when these changes take place (kinda suddenly) right before preparation for a big event it's always more of a challenge.  Then there was Anna Elisabeth's birthday.  I can't believe that precious babe is three-years-old!  I know it sounds so cliche but it happens so fast, doesn't it?  Of course, wasn't I just 16 yesterday? Now I have a son who's nearly 31 (my baby is 28) & the hubby (who I've known since he was 17) will be 50 in December.  Of course, I'm much younger than him :)  I won't hit the big 50 until the end of August 2011 --- a long, long time from now! ;) Some times all this busyness takes up so much of our time both physically & mentally, that we don't enjoy the simple things or take the time to thank the Lord for his love & mercy.  Joshua's recent deployment has been on my heart & mind this month as well.  I continue to trust God for his safety & well-being.  I've got a busy day ahead of me as I'm sure you do -- gotta get to it ....

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Anchors away ...God bless the USS Doyle

Today is the day the USS Doyle begins a six-month deployment.  This is the longest deployment thus far since my son has been in the Navy and I know that by some standards it's not considered to be a long time, many are gone for at least a year.  The Doyle is a Frigate (and frigates are the smallest war ships the Navy has).  It's job (on this deployment & every one my son has been on thus far) is to police the seas between the southeastern US and South America and deter the drug traffic.  Although we in the US are getting ready to go into our winter season, because they will go through the Panama Canal and below the equator, it will be approaching the Summer season in the southern hemisphere.  I'm praying this doesn't mean there will be more drug traffic.  I know they will go down the coast of Chile but I'm unsure where else. Joshua has promised to communicate via e-mail when possible.  Oh how I love him but he really is the worse at keeping in touch whether sailing the high seas or at his home in Florida so I'm praying he takes the time & throws me a bone with an occasional e-mail.  I'm trusting the Lord to keep him & everyone aboard safe, to give widsom to those in command and to keep every wife, child, mother, father, sister, brother of those on deployment safe & healthy in their absence.  I know He can and I believe He will.  He's a good God. 

About a year ago, I was in prayer and terribly concerned about Joshua (right before he first deployment) when I had a vision of all the world's oceans and saw all the ships as they floated. It was night and many had lights on but some were illuminated only by the moonlight.  It was at that time that the Lord laid on my heart to pray for every ship and every son and daughter aboard them because not everyone knows Jesus or has a praying family member lifting their name to God for salvation, safety & health. "Lord, touch them, save and keep them safe in Jesus name" is my prayer for all the ships in all the seas.

So begins a six-month wait for my son to be Stateside again.  I'm praying Winter flies by and Spring quickly brings him & everyone aboard The Doyle back home safe & sound in Jesus name!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Autumn, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

It's Fall y'all!  YAY!  Today is the first official weekend of Autumn 2010 and I'm very excited.  I have visions of pansies & mums, pumpkins and scarecrows, straw bales ... oh goodness, all manner of things Autumn!  I'm hoping that, in spite of all the heat we've had here in the Mountain State, the leaves will still get a chance to 'show off' a bit and not simply fall off in exhaustion!  Nothing (in my humble opinion) in all the land is as breathtaking as these hills in all their autumn glory.  This is the season when WV is aptly named 'Almost Heaven' because let me tell you ... The Almighty is surely showing off when he paints Appalachia with lovely hues of reds & orange ... His way of saying "Look what you have to look forward to for all eternity ... hang on ... this is only a taste of what beauty I have in store for My children" .... gives me goosebumps just thinking about it! 

                                       Emmy Rae & her class enjoying an ice cream social!

                                                       Em & her teacher Miss Libby

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wednesday Struggles ...

For some reason, and I'm not entirely sure why (but not totally in the dark either) I'm struggling today.  Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not on the verge of backsliding ... just feeling a bit like the heavens are made of brass and, of course, I know that's not true.  I can look back on my history with the Lord and know that He's certainly aware of everything going on in my life.  Wasn't it just last week I was proclaiming how blessed I am?  Yep, that was me ... I remember it (although vaguely at this moment).  I love His Word (I should spend much more time in it!). I'm so grateful for the times I've highlighted, underlined and made notes in my Bible that remind me of His faithfulness.  I'm encouraged by so much in the Word of God.  The passage in Joshua Chapter 4 when God instructs Joshua and he then relays the instruction to the Children of Israel to ... "Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of tribes of the children of Israel: that this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers, in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?".... In other words, when trouble comes your way again, when you feel like He's not listening, you can go back to this time (those stones) and it will remind you that He is mindful of your needs and, more importantly, it will cause you to remember that He WILL deliver you.  I am reminded today to remember the times of deliverance, times, in the not so distant past, when I was certain there was none.  So today I'm holding onto the Word and recollections of His faithfulness, in His timing, in His way ... I'll hold onto the things He's told me and not let the enemy convince me I've never heard from God (the Word tells me he's a liar, right? Right!).  "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord ....."  The Lord will fight for you and ye shall hold your peace ...." (Exodus 14:13,14) ... Lord, I know you told me everything would be all right and I'm trusting you in spite of how I'm feeling right now.  I will not look at the situation, the circumstance.  I will only look to You.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hard to say "Good Bye" but I am blessed ...

My oldest son & his family left to go back home to Florida this morning.  He hadn't been here in 2 1/2 years so his week long visit was all too short and seemed to fly by.  As I watched him drive away, his family in tow, I was heartbroken ... I did manage to hold back the tears until after he left, knowing that a teary-eyed mama would only make him sad. I know he would have liked to stay longer too but duty calls --- he has to be back on base on Monday and is scheduled to be deployed very soon.   I came back into the house only to realize that today is September 11th -- the 9th anniversary of the day our country was attacked -- the day that forever changed us -- Americans. 

I remember all too well exactly where I was and what I was doing the morning those planes flew into the Twin Towers.  I remember the fear that gripped my heart when the additional attack on the Pentagon and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania occurred.  That night was the first night, as an adult, that I went to bed afraid ... fearful of what the morning would bring.  Would there be more attacks in the night?  It was especially quiet because all planes had been grounded, remember? If it was quiet here in rural WV, I can only imagine how eerily quiet it must have been in major Metropolitan areas in this country!  The images of the burning towers, the dust, people screaming, people dying still come to my mind so vividly when I sit and think of that day.

So I'll continue to trust God to keep Joshua -- to get him & his family safely home, to encamp angels 'round about his ship in port & on deployment, to keep his wife & daughter safe & sound in his absence -- to bring him back home to Fall Creek ~~ always!  My goodbye this morning hurt my heart (of course, his daddy felt it too!) but my son is alive and well with a lovely wife, a precious daughter and a thriving career that he enjoys.  I've spent the rest of the day thinking of & praying for those who lost a loved one on September 11, 2001 because they are left with only memories of those they loved as dearly.  I was able to smooch my son's face, hug his neck and tell him "Your momma loves you Joshua". I am a blessed woman.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hmmm, what to say?

You know, it's funny when I had the thought to start this blog it never occurred to me that I might have difficulty putting my thoughts into words; well, I was wrong.  The problem may be that I have too many thoughts! ;-)   One thing does come to mind that I would like to share.  I was sitting at my dining table a couple of weeks ago, making a "Things To Do" list & listening to Kari Jobe in the background ("You Are For Me" - oh that song speaks to me!).  Grocery shopping was on that list of "Things To Do" and that is my most unfavorite thing -- of course this comes as no surprise to any one who knows me.  I had made a conscious decision a year or two ago, to quit complaning about having to go to the grocery store and be grateful that I could go.  I must admit that the decision to take on an attitude of gratitude in regard to my most unfavorite homemaker chore has made all the difference. (Don't get me wrong. I have, on occasion, had to remind myself of my resolve to be grateful ;). It was during this quiet time, that I began to thank the Lord that He is so mindful of my needs, for His faithfulness.  So thankful that what's important to me is also important to Him.  My heart became full and as I felt His presence, so sweet, He spoke to me that He would like what's important to Him to be important to me as well.  That thought had never entered my mind before.  Isn't that just like God, to speak to us in such a gentle way? A gracious reminder that while I have needs (that He has promised to meet, in His way, in His timing) there are others out there who have needs to be met too (and who may not be aware of His love for them); that He is also mindful of their needs, wants & desires.  Since that day, I've been much more aware of others; I 'look' at people a little differently -- hopefully with His eyes.  I need to be aware of the hurting, the lost, depressed, oppressed and whether it's on a one-on-one basis or through my church, food pantry, etc., I need to be about My Father's business.  Regardless of what our gift or ministry is, we have all been called to LOVE!  He's a good God!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Monday, Monday ...

It's a gorgeous morning here in the Mountain State.  As I sit here with my morning coffee looking out the living room window, puppy at my feet, I'm reminded of how great God is, how blessed I am.  My oldest son is home for the first time in 2 1/2 years.  I really haven't got to spend much one on one time with him.  Other family members & friends are excited to see him too you know! That's okay because I feel peaceful that he's within these walls, on the property, in the County, the State ... I know any mother understands that.  He has to leave on Saturday so his visit will be short.  He will take home his wife and precious daughter (a 4-year bundle of preciousness!) only to embark on a six-month deployment.  He'll be gone when his baby dons her Halloween costume (no doubt she'll be a princess!), when we give thanks for our blessings on the fourth Thursday in November & when we celebrate the birth of Christ in December ... I trust the Lord to keep him and all the men & women on his ship (& their families too in their absence).  It makes this momma's heart a bit sad but I am very proud of him.  So you can color me sentimental this goregous fall-like morning but right this moment, my son is home, safe & soundly asleep in the home he grew up in.  I am a blessed woman!