Thursday, December 30, 2010

Devotion: My Talent

"You have been faithful with a few things;
I will put you in charge of many things."
~ Matthew 25:21

I was offered two jobs in one week, although both were non-paying situations. However, both of them were plum positions.
One was to write a column for a newspaper and the other was to join a design team for a well-known rubber stamping company. As I wrestled with accepting one or both of them, while thinking it through and praying for wisdom, I became intimidated. There are better writers and many good card designers out there. What did I have to offer?
And so, when seeking advice, some tried to dissuade me from accepting either one of these invitations, dismissing them as of little importance because they weren't "real employment" and saying that these people were taking advantage of me.
Others, however, told me if I am faithful with the volunteer positions that come my way, perhaps some day it might lead to bigger things.

Prayer: I don't know what to do, Daddy. Help me. This has to be a God-thing! I can't explain it otherwise. I feel honored to be asked; yet I'm still afraid. Help me overcome it. Show me which one I should accept or if both are okay. My life is in your hands!

Today's Quote: "From the time we are small children, a dream lies hidden deep in our heart. Sometimes it is shared with our best, most trusted friends; but often it is kept hidden because the possibility of it ever happening is too unbelievable to consider." ~ Jo Packham.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Handmade Paper from Used Christmas Wrap

Note: I originally took a papermaking (pouring method) class at our local Conservation Department (free to Missouri residents). Check out Arnold Grummer’s website for more tips and ideas.

Used Christmas wrapping paper or other paper such as junk mailing paper or scraps of cardstock
Your hands or a paper shredder
Optional Inclusions: glitter, a pinch of tiny seeds [purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea); the Gray-headed Coneflower (ratibida pinnata); the Plains coreopsis (coreopsis tinctoria) and the Black-eyed Susan (rudbeckia hirta L.) for example], mica pigment powders, dried flower petals or leaves, snippets of embroidery floss, crayon shavings, etc.
3 cups of water per blender pitcher
dishtub or container to save water in
Kitchen Sponge/cotton sack toweling/felt couch sheets
Paper mold = Window-screen stapled to a wooden frame
Die-cutter/Embossing Folders

1. To make the paper molding frames, saw a piece of 1 ½” x ½” wide wooden board into 8 (7 ½”) lengths. Nail 4 pieces into 1 rectangular frame using a hammer and 2 nails on each join, then cut out a piece of wire window screening to size and staple it to the bottom of one mold with a staple gun. (see photo). Then make another one with the remaining 4 pieces. Mark the one without the screen as the top as this piece will be removed later when your paper pulp is completely poured. 
2. Prepare frames for paper making by fastening the molding frames together with two large rubberbands at each end with the screen in-between.
3. Tear used paper in small bits (about the size of the end of your thumb from the first bend to tip) or run it through a paper shredder. If the Christmas paper has metallic pieces on it, you might have to shred the paper a little finer. Throw pieces into a cereal bowl or paper cup until you have about ½ ounce of paper (weigh bowl or cup first). Tip: 1 ½ or 2 copy-weight sized sheets of scrap paper + several tiny scraps of colored cardstock = 1 sheet of colored cardstock for this size of mold.
4. Place paper into blender pitcher without compressing and pour warm water over the paper until paper is covered (approximately three cups of water). Replace lid and blend on highest setting for 30 to 60 seconds until paper becomes pulpy looking. If you have off-white or grey paper pulp and want colored paper, throw in a few scraps of colored paper or cardstock (I save my cardstock bits in sandwich-sized zip bags by color.) Keep adding and blending until you get the color you want. Remember that your paper might dry lighter, so keep adding colored paper until it’s a slightly deeper shade than you want.
5. If you wish to at this time, add your inclusions to your pulp before you pour it out. Stir with a spoon to mix thoroughly.
6. Set the mold down into your dishtub and pour the blender water/pulp mixture through the screen into it, dumping the pulp as evenly as you can on the screen. I start pouring at the corners around the edges to the middle in a circular motion. Sponge bottom of screen dry and sponge top of paper until flat. Remove rubber bands from mold, lift off top frame and set it aside.
7. Supposedly, one is able to turn over the frame and peel the paper off the screen onto the couching sheet. I messed up the paper several times trying to do this and had to start over (glad I saved the water in the dishpan instead of letting it go down the sink). I found it helpful to use a kitchen spatula to lift up one end of my new paper to slowly peel it from the screen. At this point you may let the paper dry naturally on the couching sheet or carefully iron it. Be sure the iron is on the coolest setting and don’t leave it in one place too long as it may burn the paper. Do not iron seeds.
8. If the paper buckles as it dries, lightly spritz with a bit of water to relax the fibers on both sides, then press under a few heavy books or in a homemade book press.
9. To decorate: Try spritzing dried paper with inks and cut paper into shapes with a die-cutter to use as Christmas ornaments or gift tags. Punch a hole in one end and thread a strand of ribbon, gold cording or embroidery floss to paper as a hanger or tie. Or use embossed handmade paper on cards!

Postcript: I have a tip for making a new seal for your thrift store blender pitcher here.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Birthday Cake for Jesus

While this idea of a birthday cake for Jesus was not my original idea, I did write this article explaining the idea and it was first published on the Old Fashioned Living website.

Cake Ingredients:

1 chocolate cake mix
1 white cake mix
white frosting
yellow, red, and green liquid food coloring
2 (8 or 9 inch) round cake pans
large red candle taper
box of small birthday candles

Mix and bake chocolate cake mix according to box directions. Cool and flip out both. Wrap 1 layer and freeze for later use. Mix white cake according to box directions. Divide batter in half. Put several drops of red food coloring in one half and mix to desired shade. Pour in one round cake pan. In the other half of batter, drop in green food color and mix. Put in second cake pan. Bake, cool, and pop out. Stack one chocolate layer first on the bottom, frost with white frosting, next red cake layer, frost, and last green layer. Frost whole cake with white frosting. Decorate.

Decorating Ingredients:
Red and yellow food coloring or
plastic decorations or stencils and
 red and yellow piping gel

Decorating Instructions and Symbolism:
Cake is round =
because Jesus was born into a world that is round.
1st layer of cake =
is brown for our sins.
2nd layer =
is red for Jesus' blood shed for our sins.
3rd layer =
is green for life = our new heart.

Frosting is white =
stands for Jesus' purity and righteousness.
Border of Hearts around cake sides =
represents each one of us standing as witnesses for Jesus around the world.
Gold Star in middle of cake top = 6 pointed Star of David =
Jewish nation in which Jesus was born. The Star of Bethlehem led wise men to Jesus.
Yellow border around Star =
Grace of God encircles us.
Big Red candle in middle of Star of David is Jesus.

Light candle then read Christmas story out of Bible.
Light each person's small birthday candles out of Jesus' candle and carefully stick in cake. Let our lights shine before men!

Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus!

Take photographs for scrapbooks.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cottage

Note: I found the original idea in the Kansas City Star newspaper, but rewrote the directions so children could understand them with older teen/ adult help. I have taught this craft as a class several times to elementary age cousins and homeschooled children. This recipe was originally published on Old Fashioned
Basic Christmas Cottage Ingredients =

Note: some ingredients will be enough for 2 houses. You can share or trade extra ingredients such as the candy with others in the class if you so desire. 

A Tip: Pour candies into a clean muffin tin or small custard cups to so that you can easily grab individual candies to decorate your Christmas cottage and to pass around. If they aren't eaten before the house is done, pour them into small Zipper bags to take them home.  

10 pop tarts for each house and yard (in any flavor and frosted/unfrosted)

1 can white pre-made/canned frosting

candies such as candy canes, teddy bear grahams, sprinkles, M&M's, jelly beans, gum drops, pretzels, cinnamon candies, peppermint candy, sugar ice cream cones, colored vanilla wafers, string licorice, large marshmellows, etc.

1 tube each of red and green piping gel

Other Supplies:
1 tray to put cottage on or a foil covered piece of cardboard (app. 15" x 15")

several small bowls to put candies into

1 small frosting spatula for each person making a cottage

1 table knife to cut pop tarts with

paper towels or wipes for the messies

camera & film to take photos of cottages before taking home

1 box to carry creation home in

Cottage Instructions
Step 1: Put a dab of frosting on tray or cardboard to "glue" (anchor) your pop-tarts down.

Step 2: Base = 4 pop-tarts. Smooth frosting along 1 long side edge and one short side edge of pop-tart rectangle and gently press together flat onto the center of your tray. This is your Christmas Cottage's garden (yard).

Step 3: Ends of House = 2 pop-tarts. Cut off corners of one end of long side of pop-tarts to make gable of house. Don't cut too deep until you see how roof of house fits together. Cut deeper if needed. Top of pop-tart will look like an A.

Step 4: Sides of House = 2 pop-tart rectangles laid sideways. Slather frosting on all 4 side edges of pop-tart and fit together the short bottom sides of the "gabled A" pop-tarts at the corner of the cottage, pressing gently into each other & down onto the center of your base "yard". Hold the corner a bit until frosting dries and "glues" itself together. If you need reinforcement at corners, a toothpick or pretzel stick will help. (Note: sticky icing fingers may pull apart your house or decorations, so wipe your hands periodically with a damp paper towel). Do the same with the other pop-tarts.

Step 5: Roof = 2 pop-tarts sideways. Put frosting on one long end and on undersides of "roof" where sides of "cottage" will meet. Press roof together with both hands on top of house. Fill in holes or gaps with frosting, especially at the "A" ends. Be gentle as these houses will not stand a lot of rough treatment.

Step 6: Fun part = Decorating! Tip: pull down tip of spatula to make snowy icicles on roof of house. Use the left over frosting to dab on candy to fasten it to your house or "garden yard". Use the red and green piping gel to outline your windows, doors, sidewalk, and Christmas lights around the eaves of the roof. Make snowmen out of marshmallows and pretzels sticks. Dab on gel for eyes & mouth. Make fences with pretzels or gumdrops. Layer vanilla wafers for shingles on your roof & a large gumdrop or marshmallow for a chimney. Be creative, but most of all have fun!

Step 7: Take a picture of your Christmas Cottage creation for your scrapbook and clean up your area! Gently ease into your box to take home and enjoy!

Our Christmas Cottages usually last about 3 days before they get gobbled up! But the best part of this is now you know how to make them and can create another!

Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

“Postscript” = I found Kellogg’s Pop-tart Toaster Pastries in Gingerbread Flavor at Walmart this past Christmas (2011). So yummy! The gingerbread flavor wasn’t too strong, but just right and the frosting is on the inside, so they would be very appropriate for making Christmas Cottages!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Article

Note: I wrote this article several years ago for my church. I have also included the crafts the children made during the Hanging of the Greens evening. This article was first published on Old Fashioned

Advent is an European custom and it prepares us for the birth of the Christ Child. We begin Advent four weeks preceding Jesus' birthday on Christmas day (Holy Day) by lighting a candle on each of the Sundays. It corresponds with the "Hanging of the Greens" service in our home church. (Isaiah 60:13).

Greenery in the midst of winter symbolizes eternal life which we are to receive from the One to Come, the Christ Child (Matthew 1:21). He is to come to save us from our sins. The other colors of the season are also symbolic of Christ -- white depicts the purity of Jesus and red, the blood shed for us in his act of self-sacrifice at Eastertide.

Along with the hanging of the greens and Christmas decorations, we sing Christmas carols. These songs helps us remember the story of Jesus' birth. Did you know the first Christmas carol was sung by angels? (Luke 2:8-14). Angels were the "news anchors" of their day (i.e. heralds, messengers).


In our "Hanging of the Greens" celebration tonight, we want to give you an opportunity to help us make our church building as beautiful as our Lord's coming. You can do this by making some ornaments to decorate the Sunday School rooms. Afterwards, you can also make others to decorate your own homes if you have time. On the following pages, there are directions for the crafts along with what they mean to us as Christians.

In the olden times, back before videos, television, radio, and even lots and lots of story books, most people didn't have the means to learn to read or even own a book if they could. So to get the story of Jesus' birth to these common folks, the church leaders had to find a way to tell the Christmas story to them. One of the methods of teaching the Bible stories was having artists paint big pictures on the walls (murals) of the church building or to have them make stained glass windows representing a story. Another was to write songs (carols) or to put on plays to tell the stories. Missionaries sometimes use these methods today in remote areas of the world where there isn't a written Bible yet in the native language. The first person to come up with a real nativity idea was said to be a monk by the name of St. Francis of Assisi. He made one in Greccio, Italy in 1223 or 24. He used real live people and animals to show people the story of Jesus' birth. It helped people realize that it wasn't just another make-believe story, but really, really happened!

God used symbols in the Holy Scriptures to remind the Jews who He is and what He has done for His Chosen Ones not only during their holidays, but everyday. We use decorations in the same way during our holidays too, to remind us of who He has sent and why. Below are Christmas ornaments we are crafting tonight along with explanations of the symbolism attached to each.

DECEMBER 25 = near the Jewish festival of Hanukkah or Feast of the Lights = our Light appears to save us (John 8:12; 10:22-23, 28)

CANDLES or CHRISTMAS LIGHTS = represents Christ who is the light of the world (Matthew 4:16; Revelation 22:5)

CANDLE IN THE WINDOW (country of origin - Ireland) = A welcome to the Holy Family to show the Christ Child the way. There was no room for them in the inn, but there is surely a place in our home for him. (Luke 2:7)

SNOWFLAKE = In the northern hemisphere Christmas falls during the winter.
1. Snowflakes are six-sided designs. Begin with a circle of thin paper, such as silver foiled or white paper. Fold circle in half and then in thirds like folding a zig-zig with the middle point on the fold. Cut designs on fold of paper
and unfold. Nice to hang in the window or on bulletin boards. Look for pictures
of snowflakes. These will help in cutting good designs.

APPLES = represent Adam & Eve's fall = sin (Genesis 3).

BELLS = announces the Old Testament High Priest in the presence of God = represents the glad tidings of the Presence of our Savior (Exodus 28:34,35)

WHITE ROSES = represent Virgin Mary = a symbol of purity, love, & beauty

STRAW ORNAMENT = straw from manger, Christ Child born in lowly circumstances = (Luke 2:7,16)

STAR OF BETHLEHEM = Guided & still guides wise men who seek Him (Matthew 2:9-10; Luke 11:10)

BIRDS (Dove) = symbolizes the Spirit of God or the peace of God (Matthew 3:16,17)

ROUND WAFERS or COOKIES, Later ROUND CHRISTMAS BULBS = Last Supper, Body of Christ as the Sacred Host or the Bread of Love = fruit of redemption (Luke 22:19)
2. Round Christmas Ornaments - We stamped Christmas designs on round gift
tags. We colored them with magic markers and threaded a curling ribbon
through the hole and tied to make a loop.

HOLLY = evergreen shrub = in Germany it is known as "Christ's thorn" = the thorn woven in the crown of Christ = represents the blood that issued from his wounds for us (John 19:2)

CHRISTMAS TREE (country of origin - Lutherans in Germany) = the evergreen symbolizes the Tree of Life & of the Crucifixion = Eternal Life or Immortality (Genesis 2:9; Luke 23:46; Revelation 2:7 & 22:2)
3. Christmas Tree - Cut out green paper triangles and brown construction paper rectangles. Use a piece of double face tape to attach rectangular trunk to the
green triangle Christmas tree. Use tiny Christmas stickers to decorate the tree
with. Then run the green part of the tree through a paper crimper and punch a
hole in top corner to string a loop through for a hanger.

STAINED GLASS WINDOWS (European custom) = Bible Stories told in glass designs
4. Photocopy coloring pages or clip art that looks similiar to a stained glass window, preferably ones with heavy black lines on copy weight paper.
Color the decorated side in heavily on one side only with wax crayons. Trim off
extra paper and turn colored side down on a paper towel. Wipe baby oil on the
back of the sheet (use a postal water tube - we found several at an office supply
store for 69 cents and up). Make sure the whole back is coated with oil, then wipe dry. Tape on glass windows with clear tape.

BATHING ON CHRISTMAS EVE (we bathed the back of the "stained glass" paper windows in oil) = washed in preparation to his birth - washing and renewal of our hearts (Titus 3:4-7).

Hope you have had a wonderful time making and decorating tonight in our "Hanging of the Greens" service. May we open our hearts to his presence and coming in this blessed Holy Season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas Card Exchange

We have a Christmas tradition at our church. We exchange Christmas cards with each other. It helps to save postage and yet give a bit of Christmas cheer to our spiritual family members young and old alike. We’ve done it several different ways = many years ago, the youth group arranged to deliver the cards for five cents a card for a fund-raiser. Several years later, our son, with my help, decorated a box like a huge gift (covered it with green contact paper, a red bow and ribbon) as a community service project. The box had a multi-slotted insert that was divided up alphabetically. Another year we had a basket and the greeters in their off-minutes, would rearrange the cards by families whenever someone dropped their cards off. Last year, I offered to make a new church telephone directory and it was ready for distribution by Christmas card time. This year, I went to the Hancock Fabric store to buy a piece of material to make a tablecloth for a nice-sized (meaning tall), but ugly table for the Christmas Card exchange table in the narthex. I also painted a wooden sign stand in red and green acrylic paint, glitzed it up with a bit of glitter glue around the edges and made a card-sized cardstock sign of red and white embossed paper attached to the back with foam tape. In the center of the card is a QuikCut bracket diecut in aluminum foil tape framing the hand-lettered wording “Christmas Card Exchange” and 3 small silk poinsettas are attached to the upper right corner with green brads.
I would love to hear what you’ve done at your church to arrange a station for a Christmas card exchange. Please post your ideas in the comment section below. Christmas Greetings!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Devotion: Christmas Greetings

"Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 4:21

They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Sir Henry Cole, director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in Britain, in 1843, decided that there must be a better way of sending holiday greetings to his family, friends, and business associates than the colossal chore of handwriting holiday letters to each, so he commissioned an artist friend, John Calcott Horsley to create a card with a simple message that could be duplicated and sent to all his acquaintances. Horsley lithographed and hand-colored 1,000 copies of this first commercial card. It was a three-panel card – the center panel showed a family celebrating and the two wing panels depicted people feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. The card bore the simple greeting, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” which would become the standard sentiment of commercially mass-produced Christmas cards.

After 1890, Christians, wanting to focus on the reason for the season in their holiday postings, favored religious Christmas cards.

Prayer: Happy Birthday, Jesus! Thank you for loving me so much you would come to earth to be born in a humble village to bring me the good news of God’s saving grace! Remind me to pass forward the message of Christmas joy when I select my cards this year and to greet all in your name.

Today’s Quote:
“ Old Christmas card collections may relate little of importance to the material of ordinary history books, but certainly reveal and preserve almost every other aspect of life and atmosphere, fashion and the changing panorama as seen through the eyes of their contemporaries, and thus provide a realistic background to the appreciation of the more momentous events of the period.” ~ George Buday