Archives for : December2013

A Message of Growing in Grace

J.C. Ryle describes grace this way: “When I speak of a man’s (or a woman’s) growing

in grace, I mean simply this . . . that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith

stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual-mindedness

more marked.”

How’s your grace quotient?

Mary Z.

When Christmas Isn’t Merry

A perky rendition of “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” played as I stepped out of the hospital elevator and made my way toward the small conference room. It was time to decide whether to take my father off the respirator. I was about to lose a parent, and the shallow music seemed a mockery.

Months after I lost my husband to cancer, I started carrying earplugs to the grocery store over the holidays to avoid melancholy songs like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

Yuletide is not the highlight of the year for everyone. For some it’s a time of dread, when everyone else seems happily united with loved ones. Memories of earlier joy taunt the lonely soldier in a far country, the husband with an unexpected pink slip, the woman with a positive biopsy.

I hope you’ll look for someone you can help this season. Someone who is hurting.  My friend Laurie recently watched as an old man at the pharmacy shook his head sadly and said, “I can’t afford that.” Then Laurie, who has little to spare herself, reached into her bag and placed the money on the counter.  The pharmacy technician wept and called the man back.

Christmas is about giving. Look for a chance to give to someone who’s not on your list.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall . . . have eternal life.” John 3:16

Sharon Sheppard

Mary’s Rice Pudding

My Christmas isn’t complete without rice pudding. In fact, I make it several times throughout the season. What I do is cook up the rice the day before, making enough to serve it for our starch at the dinner hour. Then the remainder of the rice is all set for pudding making the next day.

Rice Pudding

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cast of characters:

  • 1 cup of cooked rice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Nutmeg

In an oven-proof 2-quart casserole bowl, beat the eggs with sugar. Add the rice and liquids. Stir gently and add the vanilla. I sometimes also add raisins. Pour into the casserole dish and sprinkle the whole top with nutmeg. Set casserole in a pan of hot water.*

*The pan needs to be a couple of inches larger than the bowl and have enough hot water to come up to about 2 inches on the casserole bowl.

Bake for about 45-50 minutes.

Enjoy this special treat served warm or cold . . .

It won’t last long!

More Joy, Less Stress

Wine Glasses at Christmas

More joy . . . less stress

This is what most of us want at this busy season—more joy. But how do we get

there? I have been reflecting on that thought for days. Without being overly

simplistic and geeky, I have come up with a RECIPE beginning with Rs that I hope

will RESONATE with you.

RESOLVE to not let temporal “stuff” get in the way of joy.

REFLECT on what has worked in the past to bring you fulfillment.

RESEARCH charity groups online that may need volunteer help.

RAISE your glass . . . but not too high. Overindulging with food or drink just

adds more stress.

REMEMBER the REASON for the season is Immanuel: “God with us.”

RESPOND to the truth of this gift of CHRISTmas LOVE and JOY!

Mary Z.

Christmas Giving

A woman laden with overflowing shopping bags squeezed into the last

available space in the elevator and muttered, “They oughta’ kill the guy who

thought up Christmas!”

“That’s already been taken care of, Ma’am,” replied a young man at the

back of the elevator. “They crucified Him.”

If you’re feeling annoyed at the thought of all the shopping decisions (and

dollars) that typically go along with Christmas giving, consider are some

alternatives to mall shopping.

• A Gift of Memories

Friends borrowed our video camera and recorded “A Day in the Life of

Heidi,” their 11-month-old daughter, as a gift to doting grandparents who

live several states away.

An acquaintance made a trip to spend time alone with his aging father.

They visited and photographed places that had been special to the father:

the old country school, the church he’d attended as a boy, the cemetery

where old friends and relatives were buried.

A special photo in a frame, an album of old photographs, or a collection of

family stories can provide hours of joy and reminiscing.

• A Gift of Time

Make a gift of coupons for a spouse, sibling, or parent, to be cashed in for

a whole spectrum of earthly delights after the holidays. My husband’s

coupon booklet included an overnight stay at a bed-and-breakfast and his

favorite homemade chocolate cherry cake.

The written promise of a year’s worth of monthly visits or weekly phone

calls to someone in a nursing home would generally be valued far more

than another box of chocolates.

A fishing trip (even if it’s not your favorite activity), or an afternoon of

shopping or garage sale-ing can make a wonderful present for someone

who longs for uninterrupted time alone with you.

• A Gift of Love

A number of years ago, as a stay-at-home mother of two preschoolers, I

confided in my husband that I’d always dreamed of becoming a writer. He

gave me a correspondence course in creative writing that began my career

as a freelance writer. It was his way of saying, “Follow your dream. I’m

pulling for you.”

Sometimes a simple letter of encouragement can mean a lot. Tuck in

a list of “Eight reasons I’m glad you’re my son/daughter,” or a letter of

appreciation to your mother-in-law.

And for the person who has everything, consider a gift to his or her favorite

charity: a national organization or a gift to a local needy individual on the

person’s behalf.

Is there someone on your list who needs a gift of time or love or memories?

Try thinking outside the box. Literally.

©Copyright, Sharon Sheppard, 2013

The Season of Glitz


The Season of Glitz

Accessories usually speak louder at holiday time. After all, they are such an important finishing touch when it comes to completing an outfit. If you’re like me, accessories make you feel complete and well put together.  A suggested guideline to follow would be to wear a backdrop outfit of a solid color without a lot of distractions. This brings out the best in accessories.

  • Earrings do not need to match a necklace, but they should have a relationship.
  • A ring has more impact when it’s large enough to stand alone and it’s on a hand with beautiful nails.

Have fun with the holiday glitz!

Mary Z.