Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve is coming!

Christmas is by far my favorite time of year. I'm the type of person who starts listening to Christmas music in October and holds onto in well into January...or even February. It's such an amazing time of year. I love the cold air, the snow (when we get it...not had it much this year), and the happy attitudes of the folks that you meet.

Christmas is the time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Savior and everyone joins in. I know that there are those in the world who refuse the think of Christmas as the birth of our Savior and choose to celebrate without referring to Christ, but that doesn't change the fact that Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth. That's the reason we celebrate Christmas. So, even those who don't want to have anything to do with church or with God...are still celebrating the birth of His Son whether they mean to or not! Somehow, I just love that. It's the one holiday that you simply can't change the reason for the season. It's a beautiful thing.

This Friday is one of my all time favorite Christmas traditions in our family. Christmas Eve Eve. Now for most folks, it's probably full of last minute shopping and finishing up things for the parties and family gatherings that are sure to be happening on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but for us...it's a bit different.

See, many years ago, my Aunt and Uncle needed a time to wrap Christmas presents when their boys weren't around. So, when they were quite young, my two cousins started going to Grandma's house on Christmas Eve Eve to spend the night. The boys would be out of the house and my Aunt and Uncle could wrap presents. However, over the years, it's become much more than that. It became a time that all the cousins (when we are close enough to attend) would go to Grandma's house to spend the night. There are only four of us cousins (Riley, Corey, my brother Rick and myself) on my Dad's side of the family and over the years, because of distance, we never got to be together much, so it's always been a special time to just all be together.

Now, all four of us are grown and Rick and Riley are married. But that hasn't stopped the tradition. Their wives (Jenn and Laura) attend too and now there are six of us when we all get to go and we still spend the night with Grandma and we still look forward to it. It's a special time...really the only time that we get Grandma all to ourselves and we LOVE it! Grandma looks forward to it too. It's funny because her friends are always amazed that the Grandkids that are coming are all adults...and that we still come even though we are adults. But we love it!

This year, though we can't all attend, we will still have a ball. We're going to make Christmas goodies and homemade cards to go with our gifts this year. There will be much laughter, teasing, and competitive game playing. But most of all, there will be much love shared as we spend time together.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are always such special times in our families and I always look forward to them, but there's just something extra special about Christmas Eve Eve.

I hope your Christmas Celebrations are filled with joy, love and good fellowship as we all celebrate the coming of our King!

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Some things never change...

Today, I am writing this from a small library in Batesville, Indiana. I'm not very familar with Batesville, but from what I've seen it's a beautiful little town. I'm here today because my Dad had a meeting with someone here who will be teaching with Dad in Belize next month and since we are heading onto Greensburg later for the class I am in (and that Dad is teaching) it made sense for me to come with him rather than have him return to North Vernon after his meeting. So, I am sitting in the Library of this cute little town and it brings to mind many fond memories.

First of all, if I find it very ironic that the theme song from "Reading Rainbow" would be stuck in my head on the same day that I'm going to be spending quite a bit of time in the library. I haven't been in a library for any length of time in ages, but I used to come all the time. Especially when I was young. Every week, (during the years we were in Evangelism)when we would go to a new town, we would generally look for the town library. Then during the week we would go at least once. I have always loved to read and would always go to the Librarian and ask if I could read the books from "Reading Rainbow." Then I would walk away frustrated because they always looked at me like I was speaking Greek or something. Ha ha. You would think that the librarians would be familiar with a TV show that was all about getting kids to read, but sadly that was often not the case. So strange.

Even so, I have always loved libraries and it is amazing to me how over the years they really haven't changed all that much. In every town, they are set up about the same. And while I'm thrilled that in most places the old card catalogue is now on computer, most of the rest of the library is pretty much like every other library I've ever been in. (Though this one, I must admit, is a bit noisier. Even the librarians don't seem to know how to whisper. ) For me, there is something quite comforting about a library. It's almost homey. There are so many amazing adventures that are just waiting to be found and so much information that can be gleaned from the books that line it's rows and walls. Although I know that kindles and nooks are all the rage and they are very handy for making books easier to carry around, I must admit that I LOVE reading real books with real pages. Being able to flip through to my favorite part or hunt up the piece of information that I need is so much more satifying when the pages are literally in my hand rather than on the screen.

So, I'll be spending the next hour or so in this library. Enjoying the books...searching for items of information needed for a project and just generally basking in the comfort of the atmosphere. It's going to be a good afternoon. :-)

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's a beautiful time of year...

I have to say that I'm a HUGE fan of Fall and Winter. I know that I'm not in the majority here, but I love it and I'd like to explain why.

First there is the feel of the weather. I love to walk outside and feel the cool air and see my breath. It's just so invigorating. Not everyone enjoys cold weather, but it gives me energy and makes me feel alive.

But there is another reason that I love the cool weather of Fall and Winter. Have you ever noticed that winter weather tends to bring family together? In the summer, people generally spread out all over the place doing all sorts of activities. Whether it's vacation, sporting events, or simply being with friends, there are a myriad of things that keep people busy and more or less running from place to place and activity to activity. But in the winter, that changes. The weather keeps people from doing as much travelling and while some activities increase at times, many others are lessened.

When I think of cold weather, I don't think of coats and snow and bad roads. I think of family. In the winter, people tend to spend more time at home. Most of my best family memories have been made during the winter when we COULDN'T go somewhere or do something because of the weather. In fact, some of my best memories come from those times when we would lose electricity for an extended period of time. Twice, we've lost electricity for several days and during those times we would huddle around a fireplace for warmth and use candles for light. During those times we would laugh, play games, talk and generally just enjoy being together. When people are "stuck" inside because of the weather, they are usually more relaxed because they simply can't do anything else. So they allow themselves to enjoy their time with those around them without that constant nagging feeling that they should be doing something else. That simply doesn't happen in the summer.

Is it any wonder why I love the winter? Summer equals crazy schedules and people running every which way. Winter equals a forced slower pace and often the opportunity to spend time with family. In my opinion, there is just no contest.

Happy Fall and Winter everyone!!! May it be filled with making lots of good memories with your family.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Saga of the Peas - Part 3 "The Harvest"

EUREKA!!! I grew peas! And they said it couldn't be done! Well, I did it.

Before I left on vacation, there were three pea pods growing on my plant and when I returned, there were four! I know that probably seems like not much to be excited about, but you have to consider three important factors:

1) I have a black thumb.

2) I'd never attempted any type of gardening before.

3) Apparently you are supposed to plant peas early in the Spring because they don't do very well in the heat of summer. Something I was not aware of when I planted them at the very end of May.

So, my entire harvest was FOUR PEA PODS! However, once I opened the pods and dumped out the peas, there were more like 10 peas. Now, the problem became, how do I cook such a small number of peas? There wasn't enough to have them be their own side dish. So, I borrowed the smallest pot I could find and cooked them up and then put them into a casserole. Then not only did they look like there was more, but they added a bit of color to the dish.

They were pretty tasty, but I really wasn't able to judge if I would like them better than the fresh frozen kind that I buy in the store, so I suppose I'll have to try this experiement again next year. Who knows...perhaps I'll even double my harvest. :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Saga of the Peas - Part 2

So, while it is widely known (across several states) that I have the blackest of black thumbs, I've been trying desperately to grow some sugar snap peas in a pot on the back porch. However, it seems to be a losing battle.

First of all, after I had planted the peas, for the next two or three days the seeds kept trying to escape the pot, which I found very annoying. I kept pushing the rogue peas back into the pot, but for awhile I though for sure they were going to continue to make a run for it. It's as if they knew they were doomed and were trying to evade being in my garden. But, I was persistant and eventually they stayed down...at least I don't think any actually escaped. I suppose we'll know if a rogue pea plant shows up somewhere in the back yard. Ha ha!

Finally, they started growing and all seemed good for a bit. As you can see, they were quite lovely at first.

And then...things changed. The weather got crazy hot and even though I watered them often, though obviously not often enough...they started turning brown. They continued to grow, but they got more and more brown...except at the top. I found that very perplexing. I mean, I water the bottom of the plant, so shouldn't the bottom be green and the top brown? And yet as you can see in the picture below, the opposite was true.

At first we figured that there were too many peas in the pot, so I took some out (after this picture was taken). Still the bottom of the plants turn brown, and the tops stay green and continue to grow. I'm telling you these are the strangest peas I've ever seen. I don't hold out much hope of actually getting any peas from this pot, but every time I start to throw in the towel a new bit of green shows up.
I have no idea if I'll get to actually taste any peas from this experiment, but I'm continuing to hold out hope. We shall see. The saga continues...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thinking about NYC '91...

Nazarene Youth Conference is just around the corner and as the last minute plans are made, my mind wanders to when I attended NYC as a student in 1991. It seems unfathomable that that was 20 years ago. My how time flies.

Back then, you had to be chosen to attend NYC. I remember sending in the application, then reading a devotional book called "Spending Time With God" and having to memorize specific scriptures, and THEN there was the interview. I was SO nervous. I wanted to go to NYC so bad and it all hinged on this interview! YIKES! But finally, after everything was said and done, I got the letter that said I had been chosen and I was so excited I could hardly stand it! Then I had to figure out how to PAY for it! It was about $1000 to attend and I had no idea where it would come from. But God is good and it all came together and I even was able to take some spending money too.

I was the only teen attending from my church and I would have been nervous about that, but I was going to be rooming with friends from another church that had been my "home church" for years, so I wasn't worried. My roommates were Stacy Hamilton (now Stacy Gibson), Dawn Nunley (now Dawn Savage) and Janell Waid (now Janell Williams). We had a great time together. I never will forget the morning we ALL OVERSLEPT because we'd SET our alarm clock but hadn't actually TURNED ON the alarm!!! We missed the bus and everything. Ha ha.

Our District, (the Northeastern Indiana District) piled onto two charter buses and headed to Orlando, FL. We rode on that bus for something like 18 hours. UGH! We finally made it though.

While at NYC, my group included my roommates as well as Jason Bailey, Ryan Nunley, and Rob Council. Others came and went in our group, but the seven of us stuck together for the most part that week. It was an amazing time. Those folks are some of the most amazing people on the planet. And it was so much fun to be with them. From an opening Concert with Steven Curtis Chapman (which he held twice back to back because there wasn't enough room for us all to fit in the venue at the same time) to the amazing services with speakers like Guy Dowd, Josh McDowell, Gary Henecke, Becky Tirabassi and more, NYC was a week that literally changed my life. It was during that week that I felt the call to full - time Christian service. Though I didn't know in what capacity yet. God used that week to speak to me in so many ways and I've looked back at those times, those services and those friendships many many times over the years.

I'm still good friends with the people I went to NYC with. In fact, while waiting in line at the Taco Bell on our way home, I met a long lost friend (Matt Grills) that I hadn't seen since we were preschoolers. We became friends at NYC and found out we'd been friends already later on.

My prayer is that NYC 2011 will be as amazing for the students attending this year, as NYC 1991 was for me. If you are going this year...pay attention. God may just change your life! :-)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Saga of the Peas...Part 1

So, I am not a gardener. In fact, it would be safe to say that I would be thrilled to never have to plant or be apart of a garden. Mom loves them and had them often when we were growing up, but I always hated having to go out and work in them.

Generally, I'm not of fan of food straight from the garden. I don't know why, but I just don't like the flavor of fresh veggies. I know that's strange. But for example, I love frozen green beans, but I don't like fresh from the garden green beans at all. And, for those of you who think I'd never know the difference if I didn't know where the beans came from, you would be wrong. I can always tell. ALWAYS.

So, anyway, for some unexplained reason, this year, I decided that I'd like to see if I can grow sugar snap peas. I love the frozen ones, and I thought I'd see if I have the same unfavorable reaction to fresh sugar snap peas that I do for fresh green beans.

However, HERE IS THE CATCH...I have a black thumb. No really...every living plant I own dies a terrible death. I just can't keep them alive...usually because I forget to water them. But, never the less, I am going to see if I can grow these peas. I bought them probably a month ago. My Mom was kind enough to let me use one of her planters and even got the potting soil and a stick thing for the peas to wind up around probably two weeks ago, but I didn't get them planted until today.

I went out and with a spoon (didn't want to use my hands in the dirt...yuck) I dug out spots for the seeds, but as I dug, I seemed to be just uncovering the seeds that I'd just planted, so I'd have to press them back into the soil. I really didn't have a clue what I was doing so it's already a possibility that I've killed these seeds before they even had a chance to grow. But I did water them and tried to make sure that all the seeds are at least covered in the dirt. Hmm...if that's any indication of the care these peas are going to get, they may be in trouble. But, well see...and so begins the SAGA OF THE PEAS....will they live or will they die. Hmmm...I'll keep you posted.

Vacation in Ohio

What a wonderful weekend I just had. On Friday, I drove to Ohio to spend the weekend with Erica and Kris Miller. Erica is one of my very dearest friends and it had been WAY too long since we'd been able to visit. Plus she's due to have a baby girl, to be named Aurora Rose Miller, on July 3rd and I'm so excited!!!

But before I met up with Erica and Kris, I was blessed to spend Friday afternoon with my brother Rick. We met up in a place called Yellow Springs, OH and did some window shopping in some of the interesting shops in that town...including a cool used book store and a comic book shop. Rick collects comics and I am a huge Archie comics fan since childhood. He also took me to this small coffee shop where I got something called a "Hot Shot." Wow!!! It was an expresso shot in coffee and it was FABULOUS!!! We had a marvelous time. I love spending time with Rick and we don't get to do it very often, so this was very fun.

So then I went to Erica and Kris's home and got to spend the weekend with them and their dog, Cincinnatti (Cincy for short). We had a blast. We went out to eat with Kris's parents one night, did a bit of shopping, watched some movies, chatted, and just had a fabulous time catching up. I was blessed to go to a cool baby shower for her and saw Gloria Hancock there along with her boys Andrew and Joseph. That was a cool blessing that I wasn't expecting. She's awesome and her kids are just too too cute.

On Sunday, I went to church with Erica and Kris in Cederville. It's a lovely church with great people. I felt very welcome and at home there. I got to see many of them again on Monday at a fun Memorial Day picnic. Sunday lunch was at Cracker Barrell where we met up with Rick and Jenn and Kris' Mom Kim.

The whole weekend was just great. The only crazy thing that happened was yesterday when Erica and I decided to finish the day by getting some ice cream from Young's Dairy. There was a carnival in the parking lot and I guess I must have gotten distracted or something because as we were walking across the parking lot, I somehow lost my footing and fell spread eagle in the lot. No rhyme or reason for the fall, but then, I guess I've never really needed a reason. So, I ended up the vacation with some road rash on my arms and legs and I'm sure a few bruises, but no big deal. It was worth it. The ice cream was GREAT!!! :-) And THEN, we watched a great Doris Day Movie! It was a fanastic way to end a wonderful visit.

Thanks so much to Erica and Kris for letting me hang out with them this weekend. It was a blast. I look forward to seeing them again when I get to greet little Aurora. :-)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring is here!!!

Well, you know it has been too long since you posted a blog when you can't remember your password and have to create a new one. Oh well. :-)

Spring has sprung around here in Indiana. We are getting lots of thunderstorms (which I love) and yet it's staying pretty cool (which I also love). All in all it's just great!

I'm enjoying my new home and beginning to get to know all the kids and teens in my church. Right now, I'm preparing for a Children's Good Friday Service and it's going to be SO much fun. I'm telling you, I always like what I do, but some days I LOVE MY JOB!!! Seriously, what else can you do that you get to plan fun games, do crafts, use strange things for object lessons and through it all tell people about the love of Jesus??? I am truly blessed. We are also in process of planning some really fun things for our Youth Group as well. For example, we are going to go to Connor Prairie this summer. If you've never been there, well, all I can say is that you're missing out!

My little brother got married a few weeks ago to a lovely lady named Jenn. It was a small ceremony and it was just lovely. I'm very much looking forward to getting to know my new Sister-in-Law better. She's a special need's preschool teacher and she's just fabulous.

Today is my day off and one of my goals is to get my movies in order. If you've been to my home, you understand why this is a big job. I like my movies in ABC order, by genre. It takes time to do, but it's SO much easier to find what I'm looking for. My cousin (Blake) and my friend (Kim) decided once that it would be a hoot to mix them all up. So over a matter of two or three days, they just moved them around whenever they had the opportunity. UGH!!! They thought it was a scream, but I was less than amused. They are now not allowed to be around my movie collection without supervision. :-)

Well, that's it for now. I hope you're all having a glorious day and that you have a wonderful Celebration this Easter Sunday. God is so good to us. I'm honored to serve Him.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

So, I’m Fixin To Have A Birthday…

On Sunday, I’m going to turn 35 and I couldn’t help but ponder all the things that have changed in the last 35 years. Perhaps these random ponderings will strike a chord with you too.

***When I was a kid, cartoons were for kids! Rick and I fought on Saturdays over who got to watch "Smurfs" and who got to watch "G.I. Joe"…or maybe it was "Transformers." Either way they were all good shows. I also loved watching the "Gummy Bears" and "Jem and the Holograms." (Got a Jem doll when I was in about the 3rd grade and I though it was the coolest thing ever with it's flashing earings!!!) We were living in the motor home at the time, so our tv was only had about a 4 inch screen....though I think we did get maybe a 12 screen later on. I have lots of fond memories from growing up on the road, but those Saturdays of watching cartoons with my brother are some of my fondest.

***Remember when phones were those things that hung on the walls as opposed to fitting in our pockets? I’ll never forget the time Rick, Kyle, Sara, and I accidentally tuned into two ladies on a party line…we didn’t actually have a party line, so that’s why it was so odd. Rick and Kyle on one extension, Sara and I on another…all of us trying to figure out what was going on. Ha ha ha!!! Good times!

***In Lexington, we used to play with all the kids on our block. It was mostly boys, so the games of choice were generally football, or some sort of racing game. But it was a lot of fun.

***We had an 8 Track Player in our motor home for awhile. We listened to Ray Stevens, the Cathedrals, and the Imperials as we travelled down the highway. I’m sure there were probably others too, but those stick in my mind.

***Remember when it only cost a dime to use a pay phone, well…back when people still used pay phones.

***In Jr. High, I remember taking a computer class where they were trying to teach us these crazy long codes in order to do anything with the computer. I thought I’d never figure it out…sure glad I didn’t have to. Then in High School, Dad got the internet at our church for the first time. Email seemed so amazing. Now, email is so common hardly anyone writes letters anymore. It’s sad too, because there’s nothing quite as uplifting to a day as getting a card or letter in the mail from a friend. I like to send letters. Sending them makes you feel good too.

***When people moved away, it used to seem like such a big deal because it was expensive to call and, except for letters, there wasn’t an easy way to keep in touch. Now, I can call anyone online with Skype and actually see them as we chat. Plus most cell phones include unlimited long distance, so we can actually talk almost as much even though the other person is hundreds or even thousands of miles away. And let us not forget Facebook and blogs. Now, we can all be connected literally at the touch of a button. AMAZING when you stop to think about it.

***When I was a kid, I never thought I’d get to meet and get to know so many amazing people as those who are a part of my life. 35 years (well, Sunday it will be 35 years…let’s not rush things. Ha ha!) and I’ve been blessed to meet people from all over the world and have friends that mean more to me than they will ever know. My family is amazing and God is good. What more could a person ask for? Thank you Jesus! I can’t imagine the exciting things you have in store for my next 35 years.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Year, New Location

Well, It’s been a little over a month since I moved to North Vernon, IN and if you’ve ever met me, it will come as no surprise that there are still lots of boxes in my apartment. However, they are slowly (very slowly) disappearing. There is new lovely carpet in my apartment and my office is nearly all put together. It’s feeling more and more like home here all the time. It's great to be close enough to family and friends to be able to see them sometimes.

On New Year's Eve, I got to travel to Xenia, OH to see my dear friend Erica. We got to go shopping and we didn't get lost once! That could be a record for us. :-) Then I went to Springfield, OH to bring in the New Year at the "New Year's Eve Pickin' Party with Rick James and Friends." If you missed it, you missed out on a great evening of fabulous music, cool prizes, and great fun with wonderful people.

The winter has been a snowy one and I have been loving every minute of it. As many of you are aware, I have always been a big fan of winter. In fact, I basically get through the summer months by reminding myself that winter is just around the corner. I know! I know! I can hear you all screaming at your computer screens, “Toni! You’re crazy!!!” Be that as it may, I LOVE winter. I love the snow and the cold and the windy days. The more snow the better. I was quite bummed that the huge winter storm that hit the northern part of Indiana missed us for the most part. I’d love to wake up someday and be totally snowed in with snow drifts so high that I can’t get out my door. THAT would be amazing!!!

Starting Sunday, I’m beginning the series, “Lights, Camera, Action” with the kids here at North Vernon Church of the Nazarene. That means that this week we are decorating the children’s department with a movie theme. It’s coming together well and I’m really looking forward to Sunday! It’s going to be a ton of fun!

That's it for now! Until next time...