A blog about finding God's way on the journey with our children, our family, our jobs and our community.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Fun with Edible Paint

I was so excited when I found this posting from Living Locurto - we will be using this creative idea at church on Saturday as an alternative to traditional egg dying.  Not only is it less messy, it will be edible fun.  We plan to give all the kids coffee filters full of marshmallows and another with popped corn (like in the photo).  Once the little artists have created their masterpieces, we will use small cups or baskets as their 'baskets.'  We will use their painted popcorn as their 'grass' and then arrange their painted 'mallows' as their eggs.  We'll add Easter candy as the grand finale.  I think all the Moms will appreciate the fact that the traditional Easter grass is a 'thing of the past' - (have you ever gotten that stuff caught in your vacuum??)  And, no messy eggs to keep up with this year!

Everything in the basket is edible - something very important when you have little ones 'dropping things' around the house.  This way, no vacuum required.  All dogs love popcorn, right? 

Anyway, you can check out more information on this by visiting our friends at http://livinglocurto.com/

I'll post some photos are Saturday's event to keep you in the loop on how it goes over with the kiddies!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Easter is Coming....Is Your Menu Ready?

There's a week to go - and Easter will be upon us. As usual, my entire extended family will be converging upon our home once again (we seem to be the gathering spot since my Dad died).  I miss him on Holidays that call for ham or turkey - he was THE best cook.  I must admit, I don't run a close second, but my family seems to enjoy my cooking anyway.

Easter is a family gathering that is relatively easy on the hostess, because in our family, just about everyone participates in the menu.  I have learned over the years to restrain myself from saying, "just bring whatever you want."  After holidays of having five kinds of potatoes and four green bean casseroles all at the same time, I have gained the wisdom to at least pen down the menu and then, as family members call to ask the inevitable, I can whip out my menu listing, and mark off the items they agree to bring.  Granted, it might be a variation on what I would want to have at the perfect family gathering, but let's get real.  I have tried preparing everything from soup to nuts for a family of 26 or more, and it ain't easy and it ain't fun.  Not to mention the house cleaning that goes along with hosting a holiday gathering - both before AND after the holiday event.  Come on sisters, you know what I mean, right?

So, turning 50 has given me a new-found wisdom that has me planning well in advance and taking shortcuts and using semi-prepared items mixed into my well-thought-out menus these days.  (That's one thing that is good about growing older I guess!)  This Easter, I have come up with a lovely menu, and I wanted to share with you what the Hicks Family will be enjoying on Easter Sunday after Sunday Church Service:

Easter Menu 2010

Ham with Pineapple and Brown Sugar Glaze
Green Bean and Shoepeg Corn Casserole
Deviled Eggs
Mashed Potatoes
Southern Sweet Potato Souffle
Uncle Dave's Cole Slaw
Relish Tray
Fruit Ambrosia or Watergate Salad
Carolina Coconut Cake
Mile High Banana Cream Pie

Only My Mom's Sweet Iced Tea
Real Homemade Lemonade

I'll be posting my recipes for some of this delectable dishes tomorrow.  Hope this inspires you to plan a wonderful Easter menu as well.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

FREE INDEED: Time Flies When You're Raising Blessings

FREE INDEED: Time Flies When You're Raising Blessings

Time Flies When You're Raising Blessings

This photo is of Sarah and Josh - brother and sister.  Average American teenagers they are not.  But God has certainly protected them in such a way that they have been able to grow up fairly normal.  These two kids are the product of a relationship gone wrong - living in a chain reaction of drug and alcohol use, homelessness and government assistance.  When we met them back in 2003, they were living in the local homeless shetler with their mother.  In and out of their life, both their mom and dad were making very poor choices; choices that had a negative impact on these precious kids.  Then 8 and 11, Sarah and Josh were fairly accoustomed to bouncing from government subsidized housing to homelessness.  Poor grades, poor discipline and a lack of loving guidance had taken root in these two American kids.  Once living in an abandoned church with no electricity or water; showering in the rain with a bar of soap and a tattered towel.  That's when God stepped in.

The first time we met them, we were having a birthday party at the family homeless shetler (gosh, we didn't even know there were homeless kids.  We thought homelessness was reserved for the scraggly-bearded, drunk 'bum' on the park bench).  The first time we met them, my husband and I could not sleep that night.  We tossed and turned all night, just couldn't shake that picture God had burned in our memory banks of those two precious children.  They were beautiful.  They didn't look homeless.  But they were so desperate for attention and healthy parental affection.  So, the next weekend, we were back at the mission, befriending their mother, asking if we could take them to Sunday School and Church with us.  She agreed and God's intervention began (although I truly suspect it began long before that).

I will never forget the feeling I had in my heart the very first Sunday that we brought them to our home for lunch after Sunday service.  My girls began to set the table and my mother and brother we sitting around sipping tea, waiting on the meal to be served.  As we all began to gather around the dining room table, little Sarah asked me, "what are we doing?"  Not knowing the impact of what she was asking, I quickly responded, "we are going to have lunch."  She looked up at me and said something I will never, ever forget.  She said, "Together?"  As we all gathered 'round the table, taking our seat in mismatched chairs to crowd in more than 10 people, smiling, laughing and having a good time together, I watched little Sarah, quietly taking in the moment.  I could actually hear her thoughts as this scene of family unfolded.  It was so foreign to her.  So unusual.  She had never experienced having a meal together as a family.  Let me say that again.  At eight years old, Sarah had never experienced sitting down around a table and having a meal as a family.  Let that sink into your mind for just a moment. 

Another Sunday after church, we took Sarah and Josh out for lunch with the family.  To Shoney's.  Nothing spectacular - just Shoney's (big family, lots of food, little budget = Shoney's for us).  As we entered the dining room of Shoney's to be seated by the hostess, I caught a glimpse of little Sarah from the corner of my eye as we passed by the buffet to be seated.  She walked very, very slowly by the food, taking it all in with her beautiful ice-blue eyes.  We were seated in the back dining room where a server pushed together a couple of tables to make a big table for our "family" and little Sarah, as usual, was the last child to sit down.  After the blessing, we all got up moving toward the buffet to make our plates.  All but Sarah.  I went over to her chair to walk with her and she said to me, "Tracy, what are we doing?"  I said, "we are going to make our own plates."  She said, "really!?!"  And as we walked toward the buffet she told me she had never been to fancy restaurant before and she had never helped herself to a buffet.    This was a first for her.  Her first 'fancy' buffet restaurant.

Many more 'firsts' have occurred since that time that God has allowed me to be a part of Sarah's life.  You see, since that very first experience at Shoney's, Sarah has been our "adopted" daughter.  Living with us as much as she can, while still maintaining contact with her mother.  She has and will always be a very important part of our lives as the Hicks family.  (Josh is also a very real part of our family, but his story is a little different.  I'll resrve that for another day.) 

This May, we will be celebrating Sarah's 15th birthday.  Christmases, Easters, Thanksgivings, Birthdays, joining the Youth Group.  youth Witness Trips.  Vacations.  Births of Babies.  All firsts in the past 7 years.  All wonderfully celebrated for a little girl who has grown to capture a real piece of my heart. Has it been easy?  Absolutely not.  We have really sacraficed to keep a healthy balance of helping her mother provide a roof over her head, staying sober long enough to sign homework papers or other important events.  Sarah has been bounced back and forth from her home to ours - always with a focus on keeping HER family in tact.  Some days its been easier than others - the long trek taking her across town to a different school system than us adds an extra 30 minutes for me each morning).  Has it been worth it?  Absolutely so.  What a treasure and blessing she is in my life.  My daughters love her as (and consider her) their sister.  She may have blonde hair and blue eyes, but she is a Hicks through and through.

Sarah is now contemplating college - she has always had a dream to run her own Day Care.  She loves little kids and is so good with them.  I strongly suspect that somewhere deep down inside she wants to right-the-wrong of her own childhood but she has never verbalized that.  But regardless, I am a thankful woman today.  Thankful that God has allowed us to be a part of her upbringing.  A part of her life.  A part of her family.  She will be in the 10th grade next year.  Her grades and her attendance are markedly better.  She has a great shot at getting into a good college.  We will support her as long as God provides the means.  Both financially and personally through love, family support and kindness.  After all, isn't that what the body of Christ is called to do?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Guest Room Makeover - Work in Progress

For the past few months I have been on a mission to makeover our guest bedroom. It all started with a clearance sale at K-mart when they were going out of business in Knoxville (so sad, really). I found the quilt and two shams for under $40 there. I had to have it! So I scooped it up without knowing that some of the same pieces (or at least closely-matched coordinating pieces) are available at other big-box stores. Even though I am NOT the person who finds joy in perfectly matched linens, or anything unique or creative about buying everything at the same store, same time, I was pleased to know coordinating items are yet available. Yeah for me!

Next, I repurposed a textured olive-colored bed skirt that was hiding in the back of my linen closet. (I had bought this skirt from a hotel linen sale at the Hilton when they were redecorating their guest rooms last year and knew that someday, some way, it would come in handy). Boy, was I right! It's a perfect complement to the cotton tea-stained quilt details.

My next 'big' find was a doozy! I found this brand-new-still-in-the-box chandelier at a yard sale one rainy Saturday morning. From the carton in the back of this ladys' garage, I saw one of the arms of this chandelier poking out to beckon me over! It drew me like a magnet over to that dark corner, where I found this luscious chandelier with the most hideous leopard shades that any Southern decorator has ever laid her eyes on! But, I seemed to hear that chandelier saying to me, 'please save me from this dank old garage and these faux leopard 'hats' before I burst into flames.' So, I asked the nice lady what she would take for the chandelier and she said $20 bucks. TWENTY BUCKS! Okay, I said, I will take it. So before she had an opportunity to change her mind, I pulled up my Volkswagen and loaded that puppy into the backseat. I felt so much like I had stolen something that I didn't make another stop until I was safely stopped in my own driveway. Almost as abruptly as I drove into the driveway with my chandelier, I took out the leopard shades and tossed them into the Waste Management blue garbage can outside my garage.  There was no way those ugly things were going into my home in fear that other decor in my home might catch that decorating disease called 'big time tacky"  -  I still smile about that steal everytime the lightswitch is flipped to the 'on' position in our guest rom.  (Check out the fabulous chandelier below).

Other 'bargins' in this makeover include the 1950's sewing cabinet that I am using as a side table - it was $3 at a garage sale; the lamp which I found in the trash - shade, bulb and all - and a mirror I got at a local thrift store for $10. I got the hubby to paint the room in a beautiful classic Waverly color called "Gold Rush" - which isn't gold at all but a beautiful shade of paper bag (according to my granddaughter LOL).

I found the artwork at Big Lots for $3 each piece. They were too, too bright when I originally purchased them, but a little coat of brown shoe polish corrected their bright contrast and gave them just the old wash look that I love --see below).

The sign over the bed I was lucky enough to get on sale at Hobby Lobby when wall decor was 50% off (well worth $9.95).

The rug was purchased on eBay for $20, including shipping, and the dresser and armoire (which aren't pictured here) at thrift stores. The dresser was $20 and the huge armoire was only $70. I will post photos of those, both before and after shots, as soon as I find time to get 'that party started."

Enjoy the photos and I would love your feedback and suggestions! I love this room and can't wait to finish the project.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

White Gloves and Teenager's Don't Mix - Or Do They?

I still believe that some of the greatest blessings are the ones that take us completely by surprise. I was reminded of this beautiful part of God’s storehouse of blessings tonight at church. The youth group hosted Youth Sunday, with taking hold and being in complete control of everything from Sunday School classes to Sunday morning and evening services.  Our three teenagers are a part of this youth group and I love to watch their interaction with the rest of the group. I love to watch their growth as they come into their own place of being a teenager taking a hard stand against this world.

Our youth group has formed a worship team called “Sign 4 Life” - a glove ministry using black lights and white gloves. (It’s quite inspiring to see signing to music and song and I would encourage you to check it out if you have never seen it before.) But for this Mom, tonight was strangely different. Tonight I “saw” my girls in such a different light and I will never, ever be the same…

Now mind you I have seen Sign 4 Life perform for Jesus many times in many settings. But tonight in that little sanctuary when the lights were turned out, the music started and the black lights illuminated the pairs and pairs of white gloves on that stage, something amazing happened. God completely took me by surprise. Although I couldn’t see any faces in the dark, I saw their hearts! I could see my girls worshipping Christ, loving their Savior, witnessing with pure love in such a special way. I could see them the way Christ sees us! I sat there amazed and overwhelmed by the fact that I was “seeing” my girls – and all these kids that I know so well – in a whole new way! It was like God had allowed me a glimpse into their insides – into their very hearts and souls! Although my natural eyes couldn’t discern one pair of gloves from another in the dark, God allowed me to see them clearer than I have ever seen them before!

I could “see” Olivia, beautiful, sensitive, loving Olivia, keeping her hands in perfect unison with her Lord. I could “see” my Avery, so full of life, happy-go-lucky-make-the-world-laugh Avery - A pure heart dancing before her King. And I could “see” my Sarah, my dear, sweet, resilient adopted 14 year old beauty, stepping out with courage and praising her Heavenly Father for loving her so very much and keeping her safe for so long.

I can’t tell you how emotional and spirit-filled this experience was for me. I normally see their brown eyes (and Sarah’s blue eyes) and big smiles, but tonight I saw my children through the eyes of Christ and it was the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced. Tonight 1 Samuel 16:7 actually CAME ALIVE for me! The verse says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." And what a beautiful sight it was for this mother, this Christian, this woman on her earthly journey. God “sees” His children this way – God actually sees you and me this way! What a blessing to know that my Father feels exactly the same way about His children as I felt tonight about mine. I will never forget tonight. And I will never look at a pair of white gloves the same way again. 

You Make Me Dance!

"...You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me in gladness. That my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever." Ps. 30:12

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gourmet Coffee and Paint It Ain't

You know, sometimes I just want to have a pity party.  Why is it that a 50 year old, professional woman can't seem to get it together some days?  Last night I promised myself that I would sleep until 10:00 a.m.  But this morning at 7:00 a.m., tossing and turning, all I could think about was my Daddy and how I wish I could talk to him just one more time.  Just about the time the first tear was ready to roll down my cheek, I tripped over the dog in the hallway and just about fell down the stairs.  "Well, good morning, Max" I said to the 100 pound dog who lay snoring in the dark hallway.  He didn't respond, other than a slight shift of his hind quarters and a big exhale.

Down the stairs, into the kitchen to where my current 'best friend and confidant' rests beautifully on the kitchen counter.  It's my Keurig single cup brewer....oh, how I love my coffee brewer (I recently was told NOT to call it a coffee pot by the rather-uppity-snuppity clerk at Bed, Bath and Beyond.)  So I call it a brewer in hopes it will make me feel younger, somehow perkier, somehow more stylish - like her.  :)

Wild Mountain Blueberry Blend was my choice this morning - a Green Mountain Coffee favorite.  Just the smell of that jewel-of-a-java will wake up the taste buds of even the sleepiest teenage girl in my house (there were four of them this morning.)  No such luck; they were out cold.

Okay, coffee, paintbrush in hand and ready to dive into painting that big armoire I found on sale at the thrift store.  The phone rings; its' someone from the ministry where I work who needs advice and assistance with a computer issue.  "Sure thing," I said.  Then, twenty minutes later, I am warming up my gourmet cup of joe in the microwave.  (Somehow, I don't think the clerk at Bed, Bath and Beyond would be too pleased with me right now). 

Just when I was ready to grab that red mug of goodness from the microwave, and my trusty paintbrush,  my phone rings again.  It's my mom.  Asking in her sweet-as-sugar-I-need-to-go-a-few-places-today voice "what are you going to do this morning?"  I hesitated, but reluctantly agreed to come and get her sometime later in the day.  She seemed so happy with the hope someone would come rescue her from her ivory-tower apartment and take her out into the world.  I hung up the phone and sat down on the bed.  I was so aggravated and so caught up in, well, ME.  I sat there for what felt like twenty more minutes having the biggest pity party about how I never had time to do the things on my TO DO list.  I talked myself into a frenzy of self-absorbtion about 'poor, old, pitiful me' (isn't that a song?)  

Just then, He spoke to me.  In the kindest, gentliest voice.  "Hey Tracy, He said," just this morning you were wishing that you could speak to your Daddy just one more time.  And now your Mom wants just a little of your time today and you are going to miss this blessing if you don't get off your pity party pot."  WOW, God.  WOW!

So, I got up off the bed, put on my shoes, brushed my teeth, and headed for the door.  With a song in my heart and an anticipation and realization that God had given me one more day with my precious Mom, I sat the red coffee mug of goodness on the counter, gave the dog some fresh water, turned off the alarm system, yelled 'goodbye girls, love you' to four sleeping teenagers, and headed out the back door.

Goodbye coffee and painting project.  I will see you another day!  Today, its me and my Mom making memories that I will cherish and remember somewhere down this road called life.