Friday, October 30, 2015

Reformation Sunday, All Week Long

While we celebrated Reformation Sunday almost a week ago (according to tradition, Reformation Sunday is commemorated on the Sunday closest to--and not after--October 31), I believe that the words below, written by our pastor, Justin Wainscott, should serve as an all-the-year long reminder of the power of reformation. And, The Reformation.  There is much in our "orders of worship" today that came about as a result of Luther's bold statements, all ninety-five of them, being nailed to the Wittenberg door.  Soli Deo gloria.

"The Protestant Reformation was one of the watershed events in Christian history.  While it certainly had political and social ramifications, the Reformation was, first and foremost, a spiritual movement.  And while it could be argued that it began as early as the fourteenth century and was led by figures such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus, it was one particular event in the sixteenth century and one particular person who was most responsible for this movement.

On All Saints Eve, October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted a list of reasons why he opposed the Roman Catholic practice of buying and selling indulgences to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  That list of reasons, known as the 95 Theses, made the door immortal; and it sparked a movement that would change the whole of Christendom.

Five centuries later, we still feel the effects of that movement in very concrete ways.  The Reformers returned the sermon and its significance to corporate worship, making the preaching of God's word central to who we are and what we do.  They recovered the importance of congregational singing, ensuring the involvement of all God's people in worship.  The emphasis we place on every vocation (ministerial or otherwise) being a divine calling, we also owe to the Reformers.  And, of course, the doctrinal principles of the Reformation form the very foundation of all that we believe about the gospel--that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...

Put simply, the Reformation was a rediscovery of the gospel.  In fact, all great revivals in Christian have been rediscoveries of the gospel--rediscoveries of salvation as God's free gift to undeserving sinners.  So today, we give thanks to God for that rediscovery, and we join with other Protestant Christians around the globe to celebrate and commemorate both the Reformation and the courageous people who led it.  For that is our heritage--a heritage we willingly and gladly embrace.  Thanks be to God for reforming His Church!"

~Published here with the author's permission~

The Wittenberg Door

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Party With A Purpose--Shop with Stella and Give to (St.) Jude

Please plan to join us for our Fifth Annual Stella & Dot Trunk Show to support St. Jude Children's Research Hospital--and Team Belle.  This event is especially meaningful to me--and I do hope you will share a bit of your evening with us!

As many of you know, five years ago, Belle Mitchell, the youngest daughter of my long-time college friend, Kelley, was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma--brain cancer.  She and her family fiercely battled this unwanted invader for almost six years--until Belle went Home on January 17, 2015.  Because of places like St. Jude Children's Research Hospital that provide world-class health care and progressive treatment programs in a hope-filled environment--at absolutely no cost to the families, the Mitchells were well-equipped to fight.  And hundreds of families are still in the war. 
Please help us support Team Belle--and hundreds of other precious cancer warriors--with this win-win event!  Do some holiday shopping for some special ladies in your life (or even treat yourself with a S&D happy!) and know that 100% of the net proceeds from the show go directly to St. Jude.  It's the gift that truly keeps on giving~ 

For those who may be out of town or simply have other commitments on Monday evening, have no fear, you can easily shop online!

Shop online for this "party with a purpose"
 here -

A Post-Script:  A heartfelt thanks to my dear friend, Kimberly Larsen (Stella & Dot--Star Stylist/Mentor/Trainer) and Courtney Goolsby, our local Senior Stella Stylist, for making this event possible!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hump-Day Hilarity: Make 'Em Laugh

This needs no introduction. Except for this:  if you haven't ever watched "Singin' in the Rain", you need to rent it/stream it/buy it/borrow it. Now. Or in a few minutes.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Evenin' Hymn Sing: He Hideth My Soul

He Hideth My Soul
A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.

He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life with the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
He taketh my burden away;
He holdeth me up, and I shall not be moved,
He giveth me strength as my day.

With numberless blessings each moment He crowns,
And filled with His fullness divine,
I sing in my rapture, oh, glory to God
For such a Redeemer as mine!

When clothed in His brightness, transported I rise
To meet Him in clouds of the sky,
His perfect salvation, His wonderful love
I’ll shout with the millions on high.

~Fanny Crosby (1820-1915)


I will confess this is a favorite, a long-time favorite.  Likely since I heard a Southern Gospel quartet perform it, a cappella, with a bass and tenor in whose presence I hope to find myself beyond the pearly gates.  And, again, this morning, in instrumental fashion, through handbells.  Take these powerful words, with true harmonies or rich bells, and you're set.  Truth remains timeless.  Thank you, Ms. Fanny Crosby. 

Photo by David Arment

Monday, October 12, 2015

It's All About Atmosphere

Themed food is a favorite of mine.  Give me a holiday, sporting event, or cause for celebration (the anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars, say) and I am there.  So, when He Who Is Now Taller Than I came home with an edible assignment from his Physical Science class at Tutorial, I rejoiced.  Perhaps that is an overstatement.  But, there might have been a fist pump involved.

His task was to create an edible (and ideally, tasty) visual representation of the Earth’s atmosphere.  And, let me tell you that nothing says “atmosphere” quite like a trifle. Not just any trifle--we decided on a Death By Chocolate Trifle.  Wahoo--and pass the Cool Whip!

In our search for the perfect base, we brainstormed several ideas.  Crushed graham crackers, chocolate cake, a yummy cookie of some sort.  And on the sixth suggestion, God created the brownie!  Otherwise known as the troposphere.  

 Moving on (or up, as the case may be), the stratosphere was made of two cups chocolate pudding and one cup whipped topping.  Then, we crushed a sleeve of graham crackers to create the ozone layer--which, as we all know, has been destroyed by my generation’s use of Aqua Net and L’Oreal Mega Spritz.  Silly scientists, smog is for kids!


The mesophere was also composed of chocolate pudding and whipped topping, in a varied ratio from the stratosphere, one cup of each.  What about the ionosphere, you might ask?  Crushed Oreos, of course.  Then came the thermosphere--a delicious concoction of whipped topping and marshmallow creme (eight ounces and seven ounces, respectively).  And for the exosphere?  Chocolate chips, don’t you know!

Good stuff, great fluff.
Somebody had to "remove" the filling...
Completing the exosphere.
Voila--the atmosphere!
Ready for the close-up.
 Here's the recipe, Pinterest-like, for those who might be interested:

1 box, brownie mix (We used Duncan Hines)
3/4 sleeve, graham crackers, crushed
2 boxes, pudding and pie filling, chocolate fudge, 3.9 oz each
2 containers, whipped topping, 16 oz each
1 bag, Oreos
1 jar, Marshmallow Creme, 7 oz
1 bag, chocolate chips, 16 0z (save some for congratulatory snacking!)
Trifle dish

Troposphere:  Brownie
Stratosphere:  Pudding (2 cups) and whipped topping (1 cup), combined
Ozone:  Crushed graham crackers
Mesophere:  Pudding and whipped topping, 1 cup each, combined
Ionosphere:  Crushed Oreos
Thermosphere:  7 oz (Marshmallow Creme) and 8 oz (whipped topping), combined
Exosphere:  Chocolate chips

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

The competition was fierce and the mulitlayer edibles were a-plenty.  I am proud to say that an "A" was earned--and this not-so-trifling trifle also won "Tastiest Project"!  And a $5 Sonic gift card.  To the victor go the spoils.  And the Sonic Blast, apparently.

I just learned that an another edible project is looming on the horizon.  The subject:  layers of the Earth's crust.  We have set the bar high.  

I'm thinking Double-Decker 'Smores.  Yum.  And yum.


Friday, October 9, 2015

It's Fall, Y'All!

A version of this piece was posted on Our Jackson Home, a fabulous new publication, available in print and digital formats, that highlights this Place.  Our little neck of the woods.  I hope you'll check it out!

While there are various signs that summer is making its exit--and fall is curiously peeking around the corner, the gradual disappearance of fireflies from our backyard is the flickering billboard announcing summer’s conclusion.  The days grow shorter, time spent in the hammock might require one to be cocooned inside a well-worn comforter, and the sunsets are all the more vivid.

Being a native Floridian, the home of only two seasons (pre-spring and summer), it was quite a treat to see the leaves turn color.  Don’t get me wrong: the vibrant fuchsia of the hibiscus and the lush green of the ubiquitous palm tree is quite lovely; but for this girl, the oranges, yellows, and reds of autumn are equally so.  Yes, I was the one, in central Pennsylvania, with my then-infant son (now known as He Who Is Taller Than I) tucked safely in his rear-facing car seat, who would pull off the side of the road, and pick up an armful of fallen leaves.  And, of course, I kept several small bags in my glove compartment to do such things!

In fact, those colors so captured my imagination that the main living areas of our home reflect my fall fascination.  It was no surprise that many of the colors to which I gravitated and, in some cases, ended up on our walls were called such things as Bear Claw, Autumn Blaze, and Golden Moon.
"Yes, I'd like a small Bear Claw and a decaf Autumn Blaze with whip, please." Actually sounds more like a local coffeehouse.

Fall also ushers in apple season.  And, thank goodness for easy slow-cooker apple sauce recipes that make the house smell like a Yankee Candle.   It is during the fall that I channel my Nana who was a Jackie-of-all-trades--and Mistress of most of them.  She sewed, embroidered, crocheted, baked, and canned.  She canned everything--tomatoes, applesauce, beans, and the like.  So, the apples are purchased, the slow cooker finds an almost-permanent place on my kitchen counter, and off we go.  Thank heaven for the nifty Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer that also sits on my countertop.  It must have taken Caroline and Laura Ingalls hours to peel such a bushel.  Now?  Fifteen minutes and poof!  Happiness in the aforementioned Crock Pot.

Of course, this particular season brings in other delights for me and my family.  College football, pro football, and watching the highlights of those leatherheads.  I make Nana’s Famous Crab Dip and we cheer on our favorite teams.  I am a fan.  My sons, especially my eldest, are fanatics.  To give you perspective, we don’t have cable or satellite anything.  (I’ll pause here for the collective gasp!).  It’s not a weird homeschooling family thing.  In Davidic fashion, I “won” a battle with a cable Goliath.  Let’s just say they weren’t completely forthcoming about all the fees, quid pro quos, and the fine print that an electron microscope would struggle to fathom.  Naturally that means that we do not have the requisite 147 channels through which to surf.   Generally speaking, we find most of the games we want to watch online.  And, you’d be amazed at the number of games offered on ESPN-Spanish.  Since my eldest fanatic is currently taking Spanish I, he can watch the games and might even be able to understand what is being said! 

I do feel compelled to issue a shout-out to those dear friends who are cable subscribers and graciously open their homes and their armoires for the big games.  Themed food, multiple screens, and comfortable seating.  Better than any sports bar in town.  And, there’s no cover charge.

As the temperatures eventually drop, our backyard patio becomes host to our iron fire-pit, compliments of Lowe’s.  Though it has not been in the family very long, it has seen a great deal of action.  Birthdays celebrated, stories shared, relationship challenges dissected, and of course, s’mores toasted.  There is just something mesmerizing about fire.  There are evenings where conversation around the fire is non-stop and seamless; yet, there are nights of reflection that ebb and flow.  Much like the flame.

Truth be told, I still pick up leaves.  And, I’ve been known to iron them between two sheets of wax paper--to make them last as long as possible.  And some of those “crafts” just might make their way to some refrigerator doors in South Florida.

Just like toasting S’mores over a open flame, you’re never too old for that.  Never.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hump-Day Hilarity: Umm...Selfie

When you accidentally select the "selfie" icon on your phone.  Terrifying, isn't it? 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Not A Fan of the Ziosk

The Ziosk "revolutionizes the dining experience with interactive promotions and next generation pay-on demand." So saith their website.  So, essentially, if I don't provide the "next generation" with a distraction that eliminates the need for conversation, I can rely on Olive Garden to do so?  Rather than ask my server to attend to the needs of our table, by eyeballing our water glasses or making sure we have enough of those addictive breadsticks, we're supposed to tell a machine that we need something.  So, I should tip the Ziosk then?

Who decided that this would be a good idea?

Generally speaking, when you go out for a meal, you are doing so for one of several reasons.  Firstly, you may have been given a respite from the responsibility of providing said nourishment; thus, you are also relieved from the food preparation, maintaining the needs of the eaters, and the clean-up.  Or you might be celebrating a special occasion and want to share that with others.  Perhaps you just want to gaze longingly into the eyes of your beloved, over a shared slice of Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake, with Frank Sinatra crooning in the background.  It's an escape.  A vacation from all the distractions of the daily grind.  The last thing you want is another electronic device that must be "managed" in order to produce your desired outcome.  Or one that "revolutionizes the dining experience" by interrupting the opportunity for human interaction--gasp--with trivia games.  Whoopee pickle.

It's bad enough that there are so few dining establishments out there, be they fast food or "good food served fast", that are television-free.  Of course, if you go to a sports bar with the intention of watching Florida annihilate Ole Miss in the Swamp, multiple giant screens in every nook and cranny of the place are expected.  That's what you go there for--to watch the game.  Or games.  I totally get that.  Been there, done that, bought the hot wings.  But now, we have this lovely addition of a tablet sitting atop our dining table.  And the server has  abdicated the role for which they were hired-- to attend to their customers--by relying upon some buzz or beep to tell them that another Coke with no ice is needed at Table 10 or Table 46 wants another slice of Tiramisu?  What's next--a portable water station at each booth for convenient self-service?  Dude, I can stay home and do that.

That's not dining out. That's drive-thru service with a linen napkin.  I can pull up to the Golden Arches menu-tron, tell the person with the Madonna Mic what I'd like to eat, confirm my order and determine how much it will cost me.  I proceed to the window, pay my debt, and get my food.  And, I don't even have to get out of my car--or tip the server.  Last Saturday evening, we walked into Red Robin, a restaurant chain who has apparently drunk the Ziosk Kool-Aid, to celebrate Mini-Hooper's birthday.  Our server took our drink and food orders, and then disappeared. Some other kind soul brought out our food.  Because we didn't use the Ziosk to let her know that we needed more water, we nearly passed out from dehydration.  Okay, that's an exaggeration.  She only checked on us once--when she told us how to pay the bill on our handy-dandy Ziosk.  Then, when this time-saving device didn't work--twice--she harrumphedly took our card and processed it "the old-fashioned way".  "Harrumphedly" is my word of the day.  Use it in a sentence.  It's fun.

Because she rarely showed her face at our booth and she barely acknowledged the fact that I had a birthday meal coupon for Mr. Double Digits, there was no birthday hoopla.  No free hot fudge sundae.  Nada.  Perhaps, if we had told the Ziosk about the occasion for celebration, it would have baked us a cake.  Or sang "Happy Birthday to You".  I will grant you that this might also be a flat-out customer service issue.  However, her lack of "service with a smile"--or service, at all--was exacerbated by the presence of that nifty little tablet.  

I sincerely hope that this Ziosk thing will not become standard at our favorite local eateries.  Thus far, it seems to be a giant, conglomerate chain dining establishment kind of thing.   Call me old-fashioned, I don't mind it a bit; but, I like being treated like a human being.  One with whom you can converse.  One whose presence in a given place is something more than a beep or buzz--it is valued.  So, to the fabulous folks at Tulum, Asia Garden, and Carriage House Cafe, please continue to treat your customers as though you welcome their presence and patronage, with refills of that yummy Fruit Tea and bottomless pails of nacho chips.  And, we pledge to be patient, appreciative, and loyal.  Especially on Sundays.

Farewell to the Garden and the Robin.  It was nice knowing you.   This time, it's not me, it's you.  There's not room enough for all of us at the table anymore.