Congratulations Mintie!…and…There Arose such a Clatter!

PrintMintie Reagan Welchance, You are the winner! If you put “The Colley House” in your status at any point in the last week and left it up for twenty-four hours, and tagged me in the status, you were in the drawing for a free Colley House Christmas bundle. I hope you enjoy it, Mintie. Valued at $58.50, it’s coming your way on a pretty fast sleigh!

I think we’re about to embark on year eight of the “Bless Your Heart” blog. This year, during the holidays, I’ve received more cards of encouragement from blog readers and Digging Deep ladies than ever before. I don’t know how you would have coordinated, but I’m starting to think you all are in cahoots and have a plan to fill my box with holiday cheer. If so, it’s working!…and I thank you.  And speaking of holiday cheer, I’m up for a lot of it this week. Glenn and I have had our grandson Ezra, for the past five days. Now that’s a lot of cheer…and cuddles… and drives looking for “Pippas yights” (Christmas lights), and choruses of “Dee-dee Bells” (Jingle Bells).”

A couple of nights ago, during our Bible “story time”, I gave Ezra the fill-in-the -blank statement: “When I grow up, I’m going to marry a _______________.” Because he didn’t respond quickly, I added the initial sound of the answer…”Chr…”

Then he shouted with glee “a Pippas tree!!”

We’re enjoying him immensely and are looking forward to enjoying his parents and baby Colleyanna later this week. Next week, we hope to have Caleb and Bekah here, too, at some point. We know we are blessed beyond our imagination’s scope and we praise Him for rich blessings of friends and family.

It will be after Santa’s delivery run that you next get a notification from the “Bless Your Heart” blog page. I hope you are in a place in life in which you can be enjoying family this week, as well. Most of all, I hope you feel the security of the Father’s arms and bask in His salvation. In that vein, here’s a post from the archives about the “clatter” that arose on my roof early one Christmas morning:

It was a shocker, alright. It was in the very early hours of Christmas morning, 2010, when the huge, noise that shook the house abruptly woke up the neighborhood. Glenn looked at me with terror in his eyes and then ran into the room where Hannah was sleeping. He “sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.” I heard him mutter something about a bomb as he ran out of the room. The last time I had heard a noise like that had been many years ago when a big trash truck had bolted over a curb and into our house (but that’s another story for another post). The kids were both okay and, on investigation, we found that, this time, a huge part of a tree had fallen on the house. There was damage, but safety for all. 

Later in the day, the kids and I were talking about how their dad reacts to unknown perceived threats.  He inhales hugely! (BIG gasp that’s a little funny on reflection). Then he runs (dressed or not) to wherever his kids are. The amazing thing was that his reaction was just the same when they are twenty-something as it was when they were 2 and 6. He instinctively runs to his children. Their safety and protection are his only immediate concern. While we were talking about this, Hannah said she could remember one occasion, as a child, when a bumblebee woke her up buzzing around her head. She said, “I was scared of that noise in the dark, I cried out and immediately heard Dad’s footsteps–loud running footsteps– as he ran into my room and took me in His arms. Then he killed that bee. Anytime I yelled in the night, he was right there, right then.”

I think every child who has a good father remembers what it felt like to be in his arms. I remember pretending I was asleep in the back of our station wagon when I was a child just so my daddy would carry me in the house. Ultimate protection, strength and safety were wrapped all around me.

That’s what God does. The Bible describes our God as “a very present help in time of trouble” (Psa.46:1). He’s right there, right then.  He is the Father who pities His children (Psa.103:13), and hears their cries (Psa 34:17). He is the one who offers His help to His people “right early” (Psa.46:5). Deuteronomy thirty-three, verse twenty-seven says he puts his everlasting arms beneath us.

Let me assure you, even if you’ve never felt the need to cry out to your Father or to feel his arms beneath you, there will come a time when a huge clatter will arise in your life. You will look in horror at the prospects before you and you will desperately want to cry out to Him.  Are you secure in the house of the Father? Will he hasten to your side when you cry? If not, will you contact me and let me help you find that security? I wish this safety for every reader.

Sister to Sister: Merry Mayhem!

15391365_10153980383556384_9087184133480203861_oThe anticipation was the kind that brings to mind mugs of hot cider around a blazing fire with Mannheim Steamroller or Celtic Christmas accompaniment softly playing in the background as you tell stories of favorite Christmases past. It was all about seeing new babies and exchanging sentimental gifts that began with a grandmother’s stitching  or the sketching of an old preacher’s pen. It was, in thinking ahead, about chicken and dressing and smoked barbecue and eggnog and strawberry pretzel salad.  It was, in fact, in anticipation, the thing that binds families ever so tight and it was the makings of memories that you wish you could place in the minds of those in the house who are not yet old enough to make their own deposits in the long term memory accounts. All of this was the way it was in anticipation. 

In reality, you ride for an eternity in the very, very “backest” part of the back of an eight passenger SUV while your two-year-old grandson wants to “hold Mammy’-sss-hand” in the middle part of the back. That’s a feat…let me tell you…when there’s a newborn and a stash of wrapped Christmas presents including a breakable 16 X 20 framed portrait of the newborn dressed in one of those sentimental “grandmother stitchings” —all of that in between you and the one who wants to hold your hand. In reality, there’s not much Mannheim, but there’s a lot of baby mayhem. In the real world, that jello strawberry salad is turning to soup as temperatures rise while we travel over the river and through the woods. Reality has those magical gift-giving times transformed into toddler cousins mutiny with a Star Wars saber and spankings over the refusal to say the magic word, “thank-you”. 

But the outside temps were not the only ones rising. The most painful part of reality, happened on the way to the celebration in my son-in-law’s throat, little by little as he first “didn’t feel so great” and then, progressively, ‘thought he might have a fever” and then “was very, very cold.” “Burgers and Stuff” was the name of the place we could find open in Walnut, Mississippi where we finally, at long last, gathered around a table to eat an evening meal after those poor babies had traveled for eight hours. As luck would have it, Burgers and Stuff was right next door to Dollar General. (Well, that’s not really luck, I guess, since Dollar General has found a home on every corner in the Southeast in the past two years.) By this time, we were taking bets (not real bets, okay) on whether or not baby Colleyanna had a temperature. Glenn, the eternal optimist, was all about how her carseat was right above the rear heater. (Nevermind that stuff was coming out of her eyes…We had the burgers….she had the stuff, I guess.) Glenn went over to Dollar General and bought a thermometer. Sure enough, Colleyanna was up over 100 degrees and Ben was knocking on 103. Hannah was coughing non-stop and Ezra, who had already been on antibiotics for five days, was having the time of his life since neither parent felt like speaking, much less spanking. All of this was after Glenn had accidentally taken a sip from Ben’s cup when they switched seats so Ben could drive for a while.  

Two hours and a drug store visit later, we checked the Giselbachs (minus Ezra) into a hotel room, to try and not spread the “cheer.” The rest of us proceeded to the sweet grandparents’ house, where I promptly discovered that my clothes had been left at home. Rolling with the punches, I washed a spot off the front of the hoodie I was wearing and hung it up to dry. The next morning, as I was about to put it on again, I discovered that neither Glenn nor I had brought deodorant. (Glenn needs that, you know.) The folks were still asleep, so I went looking in the upstairs bathroom, There it was in plain view on the counter: Old Spice deodorant. 

Let’s just say that my skin is extremely allergic to whatever is in Old Spice. I’m two days out from that application and I still cannot fully extend my arms without some stout pain. Fast forward through breakfast, gift exchange, lunch preparation, lunch and pack-up time…all with Ezra in tow and all in time for the hotel check-out of our sick friends and you get an idea how much I used those arms (that were on FIRE) that morning

We’re back home.  Ben has strep, Hannah has bronchitis, Colleyanna has ear infection and congestion and Ezra is still having the time of his life! 

Actually, we all are. These are the times of our lives. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s always blessed. Remember that blessing trail (http://thecolleyhouse.org/the-blessing-trail)? We traveled that path to visit relatives this weekend. 

Here’s a few blessings from the trip. There are lots more. 

1.Two parents/grandparents/great-grandparents who love us and love the Lord and couldn’t wait to meet Colleyanna (who bears their wonderful family name). 

2. A sweet, healthy two-year-old who wants to hold Mammy’s hand!

3. A one-hundred-year-old hand-made dress from Colleyanna’s great, great, great grandmother for that big portrait that I was reaching over.

4. Plenty of food even if it did look a little worse for the journey.

5. Comfortable and available alternate lodging for the sick ones and enough money to pay for it. 

6. The help of two sisters in Christ who are nurses, and that of a very kind pharmacist and a couple of urgent care centers. 

7. Life in a  time and place in which medical technology is advanced.

8. Cousins

9. The technology of face-time. The hotel crowd did not totally miss the visit.

10.  Lots of clothes…enough to make it a very rare thing to wear the same clothing for two days.

11. A daughter and even a son-in-law who want to scrunch up in our SUV so we can spend the driving time together. A family that’s close enough to share diseases.

12. Secret deodorant.

13. No strep for me…yet!

14. Diseases that are not terminal. So many for whom I am praying cannot say that.

15. Great, great, great grandmother’s stitching, but more profoundly and eternally important… Great Grandaddy’s preaching!

Happy Christmas! Merry Mayhem to you, too!

Crockpot Christmas CONTEST!

 

unknownEvery December The Colley House has a fun contest and give-away. This year’s contest is unabashedly self-serving for me.  Perhaps it will be helpful to someone else who’s got a lot going on this Christmas, as well. Since I’ve got at least four Christmas dinners for which I’m preparing all or a significant amount of the food, I’m asking for your best and most SIMPLE holiday recipes.  Who’s in? Just send me your favorite holiday crock-pot recipe OR a simple tried and true recipe that your family loves around the Christmas table. It can be anything from appetizers to desserts or any dish in between. It can be for your football game gatherings during the holidays or even the cookies you leave for Santa. The key is simplicity! I want recipes that I can make quickly AND that will be popular with the family. (Popular food makes the cook popular, too!)  You can enter as many times as you like and the top three winners will get to choose any two Colley House products at no cost! (There are four new Colley House books published in 2016, so you might want to check those out.) I’ll publish the best of the recipes and I’ll think of you all while I’m cooking those holiday meals. (I know I could go to Pinterest, but I love sister recipes because they’re sort of a like a long distance potluck!) Deadline is December 16th at noon. You can email the recipes to byhcontest@gmail.com. So hurry and send me a taste of your holiday! Blessings and much holiday happiness to you and yours!

P.S. I’ll share first. Here’s the recipe for Caramel Popcorn Balls, the traditional tree-trimming snack at the Colley house:

1 box brown sugar–1/2 cup butter–1/2 cup light corn syrup–1 T water–1 t. salt
Mix all that up (you don’t have to melt the butter. Just throw it in there) Microwave all that for 10 minutes. But after five of those ten minutes, take it out and stir it and add 2 tsp. of baking soda.) Then finish microwaving. Then pour over or mix in 3 quarts of popped corn and 1 cup of peanuts. (We leave out the nuts and just add a little more corn, because Hannah doesn’t like nuts) Spread on foil or waxed paper to cool or form balls. (We like the balls and to do this I spread butter on a piece of wax paper and hold this in my hand while I “squish” the ball together. You need something in your hand, because it is very hot when you mold them.) We love these! (The original recipe says microwave 12 minutes, but my microwave burns the caramel at 12 minutes, so I guess you kind of have to play with that!) They are so yum. Ezra left little sticky “Ock-corns” all over the house! He went crazy over them!15250781_961064418549_1488882612686999350_o

 

Today I Was Uncle Billy…

 

?????????????

Happy Christmas Eve!

Today, as I write, it’s actually a couple of days before Christmas.  And today,  I was Uncle Billy from that very famous Christmas Eve story, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. (That’s our very favorite Colley Christmas movie.) I went to the bank early this afternoon to make a transaction for my father. I had neither deposit slip nor check.  It’s “customary” to bring those along.  I was glad when the bank clerk  said, “We know who you are.” Perhaps they know because I am the one who is forevermore trying to clean up a banking mess from afar…as in… “How can I quickly get enough money from his savings (in another bank) to his checking account without coming all the way from Huntsville to Jacksonville?” …or… “Does he have to personally come in to do this or can he just sign and send one of us?”  Somehow when you’re the oldest and probably the most forgetful (He’s the oldest and I’m the most forgetful) customer at an institution, they remember you. Today that was good.

So they did give me the two hundred dollars that Daddy wanted me to withdraw to finish out his Christmas (although from the looks of those 19 stockings and that pile of gifts under the tree, he should be done….And from the looks of those bruises he’s sporting from a recent fall at his grandson’s wedding, he is about done!).

Leaving the bank,  I zig-zagged all over Jacksonville doing his errands and mine for a couple of hours and then hurried home to check on him. He had been excited for me to go to the post office and check his mail. He loves to get Christmas cards. True to my absent-minded  form, when I got there, I’d forgotten to bring his box key, so I waited in line to ask my cousin, Robert, the postmaster, if he would get Dad’s mail for me. There were 4 or 5 cards for Grat, who lives in the little apartment part of Dad’s house, but none for Dad. So, when I got home, I hurried into the utility room to put Grat’s cards on the dryer for him. I did not want Dad to see them and ask if he got any cards.

Then I put up the refrigerated and frozen items. Then I went to the car to get Dad’s money. I remembered where I’d laid it, still in the bank envelope—the envelope that had a handwritten “Merry Christmas” in red ink on the outside— in the passenger seat. That’s where I was sure I’d laid it. But it wasn’t there!

I searched and re-searched all over the car, his house, the yard. Then I told Dad I needed to go back to town and check one more thing. In Uncle Billy style, I tried to think of every place I’d been. I talked to the cart patrols on both sides of Walmart. I asked at the service desk. I talked to the cashier at register 8. I looked under cars and on top of counters in restrooms. I went back to the bank thinking IF there was an honest person who had found the cash in the envelope that said “Compass Bank” that might be the place it would be left. But it was a couple of minutes after four o’clock and the bank was closed. So I came home once more and fixed Dad some pizza for supper. He asked me if I had thought to go to the bank. I did not tell him, “Yes, twice.” Instead I said, “Well, I do not have your money. I’m sorry. I will get it first thing in the morning. We still have two more days before Christmas.”

I got him settled in bed and told him I was going to run to town just one more time to check on just one more thing. This time I was thorough. The post office parking lot, the lot at McDonald’s, inside McDonald’s where the cashiers and the manager stared at me in disbelief to think that I would actually suggest that someone would relinquish cash for the sake of integrity. I knew the odds were not in my favor. I went to the square where I had been momentarily in the coffee shop, the drug store and the boutique. In between stops I was listening to a lesson from the Polishing the Pulpit thumb drive. I’m listening all the way through the 2015 lessons and, coincidentally, today’s lesson was one of my husband’s where he details the trial and crucifixion of my Lord. I really have a hard time listening to this lesson without crying. Today, though, it gave my weary spirit peace, while I wept. Every time I got back in the car, I thought, “This money is so inconsequential in the scheme of things. In fact, there was one very dark day in history that made, for me, all material things of very little consequence.”

I thought on this, but still, I went on to the bank parking lot and back home to retrace steps again in the yard. It was inconsequential, really, but it was not mine. Exhausted, I came back in the house where Grat was cooking his late supper. He was sympathetic when I told him I’d lost two hundred dollars. I was telling him about how I remembered having laid that envelope with the red “Merry Christmas”  in the seat beside me.

His eyebrows arched sharply. “I know where it is!” he said. “It was in the middle of that stack of Christmas cards on the dryer! I haven’t opened it, but I thought that was a sort of funny envelope for a Christmas card!” Just like Potter, Grat had gotten something extra in his stack of papers.

Isn’t it funny how holding something in your hand again that gave you absolutely no thrill a few hours earlier can give you a surge of excitement? I wanted to just kiss that red “Merry Christmas” and dance around with that envelope! I wanted to call my neighbors and say “Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost” (Luke 15:9).

Maybe most of all, I was glad my friends, like Grat and all of you who take the time to read, are not like Mr. Potter (although I am like Uncle Billy). You are more like Clarence, the angel. I know that if I ever really do get in a jam, there are lots of you who’d rescue me (and some of you have!)  Merry Christmas to you all! God bless you as we all get ready to serve him in 2016.

“Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!” …Clarence, the angel.

This Holiday: A GRAND Celebration

HHCollectionIt’s time for the Christmas Bundle Special again at the Colley house. This year, in honor of Ezra,  The Colley House would like to offer a half price special for the grandmothers who read “Bless Your Heart.”  Any combination of five “Hannah’s Hundred”s CDs and you get them at half price. (Your kids and grandkids will be singing the scriptures in no time!) Additionally if you’d like five “Picking Melons and Mates” books, you can get them at half price as well. So, this year, it’s bundles of FIVE!… Hannah’s Hundreds OR Picking Melons and Mates for Half Price.  Get one or two bundles of each! You can find the Hannah’s Hundred special HERE and the Picking Melons and Mates Special HERE. Either bundle is a great way to check off the children on your list. “Picking Melons and Mates” is a great way to get your grandchildren started on a nightly family Bible time schedule. It includes an easy-to-follow plan for beginning Family Bible Time, a tradition that will help your grandchildren to heaven. (That’s my favorite thing about “Picking Melons”, for sure!) Special Ends at Midnight on December 25th.PMM

The “Bless Your Heart” Contest this year is about the “grands”, too. Send us your favorite holiday anecdote or memory that involves a grandparent and/or a grandchild.  Tell us what your grandmother’s house smelled like or about the Christmas when you tugged at Grandpa’s Santa beard or maybe about the year when Grandmother’s tree fell on the baby! Send it to byhcontest@gmail.com Deadline is December 20th at noon. Two winners receive their choice of any five books from The Colley House along with the brand new DVD designed to introduce your non-Christian friends to the gospel: “The Killing of Jesus.” It’s the greatest story ever told and Glenn Colley is a great story-teller, if I do say so myself.

It’s a great time for giving. A great time for thanking. It’s a great time for putting the Word in the hearts of your kids and grandkids. That’s a gift that can transcend this lifetime! Happy Holidays!

Go to Church? On Christmas?

Every seven years, Christmas and New Years Day fall on a Sunday, and 2011 is one of those years. Since most families have special plans and traditions on these days, going to church may create some scheduling conflicts. Some families may even decide to skip church altogether, thinking, “Since it’s Christmas, we’ll stay home on Sunday, just this once.”

Of course, it is a good thing for families to be together, especially during the holiday season. Most families do not spend enough time together as it is. Nonetheless, our service to God must be a priority. Can a Christian justify giving God a Sunday “rain check” so he or she can have more family time on Christmas Day? I believe the Lord’s Day must take precedence, even on Christmas. Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33, emp. added), which means that serving God – including worshiping Him on Sunday – must come “first,” even if it means having to adjust our holiday plans.

Christmas should be about spending time with our families and enjoying the blessings of our loved ones. The Lord has been good to bless us with our families and the people we love, and there are countless reasons why we should be thankful to Him. I submit that Sundays are the best Christmas Days because we have the opportunity to be with both our earthly families and our spiritual family, worshiping the Name that is above all other names.

It was the practice of the early church to meet on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2). Jesus was raised on the first day of the week (Lk. 24:1, 7), and His church was established on the first day of the week (Lev. 23:15-17, Acts 2:1). Sundays, even Christmas Sundays, belong to the Lord. Therefore, on every first day of the week, we must make it a priority to be with our spiritual family and worship our Heavenly Father. When we decide to skip worship services because it becomes an ‘inconvenience,’ we’ve lost the ‘big picture’ of the Christian life. May we all understand and appreciate the importance of what God established and make Him the priority in life.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas as we enjoy our time with our families; giving thanks to God every Sunday for the immeasurable blessings that we have both in Him and in one another.