December 25, 2011

December 23, 2011

O Holy Night: Fab Music Friday

The most beautiful Christmas carol ev-er is "O, Holy Night."  (Don't even attempt to argue with me on this one because you'd just. be. wrong. Sorry, that's just the way it is.)  There is not a song out there that captures the sacredness, purpose or beauty of the holy birth more wonderfully than this song.  And so, as my Christmas gift to you, I present "O, Holy Night" as sung by the lovely and talented Miss Christina Grimmie.

(Email subscribers, please go HERE to see video.)

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Be blessed. Be brave. And have a very merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

What's the Point?

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
~ Luke 2:11-12

(Warning: this post is full of bad photos. I tried, honest, I did. And I promise there's a good word at the end.)

It's Christmas time.

That's Christ-mas time. Ahem.

Although, it is getting harder and harder to figure that out. I have a challenge for you: go to your local superstore and head to the "Christmas" section. Now try to find the nativities. Or the mangers. Or an ornament that is even in a general shape of something slightly religious.

Disappointing - and frustrating - isn't it?

At the Samuels' house we don't make a big deal out of Santa.  We don't paint believing in Santa as something bad - rather, he is more like a non-issue.  We just don't talk about him at all, really.  The boys do get stockings but I don't think we have ever said they were from Santa - they are just 'there' on Christmas morning.

As a mom, though, I do purpose to not decorate with Santa.  Cookie plate in the shape of a chubby Santa face? I'll skip it.  Ho-ho-ho-ing ornament? Pass. Wrapping paper with cute reindeer and Santa hats? Not for me.  But give me a nativity and I am swooning. I love them - maybe even just a little too much (maybe.) There is something so peaceful, so meaningful, in the beauty of a simple nativity. And in a culture that increasingly tells us that talking about Christ at Christmas is taboo, I figure the least I can do is make sure my friends and family are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas when they come into my home.

Here are the nativities that I currently have around my home:

This is the first nativity I ever received.  It was from my parents, 21 years ago, in honor of the birth of our first son, Christopher. And, yes, he was born on Christmas.  And not in a manger, but with just about that much drama and excitement (but that's a story for another time.)

We bought this nativity set several years ago - it is by far the most expensive nativity we have because they are Hamilton-Drake collectible dolls. And in all honesty, I am not that crazy about it but I think it is my kids' favorite nativity: probably because it is the most realistic (even if the green shepherd boy looks like Peter Pan) and because it is the only baby Jesus that we can hide until he is "born" on Christmas day. It is the nativity that the boys have helped me set up each year, unwrapping each doll with (boyish) care - and so for that reason it has the most special memories.

I love my Willow Tree nativity. The pieces are so simple, yet so beautiful.  3 years back I bought the manger at Walmart and loved it.  The next year I went back to buy another one and guess what?  They are no where to be found :( We put this nativity front and center under our Christmas tree as a reminder that our focus is not the tree or the gifts but instead, our focus is the the babe who gave the greatest gift of all - himself.

This nativity was given to me by a friend who said she thought of me as soon as she saw it.  What a perfect gift and I will treasure it always!

This is my newest nativity: It is also by Willow Tree and I purchased it last year on clearance - after Christmas - and never even took it out of the box! So I was so excited to put it out this year and it was well worth the wait. The picture is really cruddy (sorry, I warned you) but trust me, it is beautiful!

No nativity collection would be complete without an outdoor light up set, right?  (Just smile and nod.) I've actually had this set for several years, but thanks to our very, very extended fall this year, Keith finally got around to building a stable for them to huddle in.  I was giggling like a little girl when he put it out (see, it's the small things that make me happy.)

Ok, I confess, this one is maybe over the top.  And slightly embarrassing.  It was a really, really good after-Christmas deal and I just couldn't pass it up (really, I couldn't) - but I think my husband wishes I had because it's kind of a pain in the patooey to put up and maintain through the wind and snow.  Thankfully, we haven't had much any of that this year (may I remind you that we live in North Dakota! Crazy...) so there's been little complaining. Yes, it's a little cheesy. And, yes, the sheep looks like he is a cyclops (he does have two eyes, honest.) But if any of our nativities are going to get noticed, it's gonna be this one.

The point is, I want my family and those around me to, well...get the point.  We need to be reminded that Christmas isn't about presents and Santa and happy holiday festivities!  If it was not for a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago there would be nothing to celebrate in December.  He was the beginning of it all.  He is the reason, the focus, the point of everything that we do.

Or at least, it should be.

At church this past Sunday, the minister quoted the following verse:

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." 
~Luke 2:6-7

2,000 years ago there was no room in the inn for the babe  - the King of Kings. 2,000 years later there is still little room for him: certainly not in our schools, in our businesses, our government...and, sadly, many times not even in our lives. Even at Christmas.

My prayer for you is that you take time this Christmas, and each day of the year, to make room for Him in your life.  Let HIM be the point, the focus of your life.  No, there still may not be peace in the world, but I guarantee there will be peace in your heart.

And that is the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas and much love,

December 6, 2011

Deep Cleaning

I got out my toothbrush today.

OK. Not THAT toothbrush - I brush my teeth everyday. Honest.

No, I got out this toothbrush.

And for two hours I brushed and scrubbed little nooks and crannies throughout my house that haven't been brushed and scrubbed in ... well, a REALLY long time.

Two hours later, I stood back and smiled and breathed out a deep sigh. A deep sigh of contentment and relief and accomplishment.  My house looked cleaner, felt cleaner, and it smelled cleaner ... fresher.

And it got me to thinking.  I think our souls are like that.  Every once in a while they need a deep cleaning. We all do our best on a day to day basis to keep the clutter under control and the obvious cobwebs swept away. But every once in while, we need to pull out that toothbrush and take a closer look.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me..." (Psalm 139:2-3)
Because way back in the corners of our heart are the crumbs and dust that, if left untouched, will eventually begin to become more obvious.  If we don't clean out the corners of our home once in awhile, those dust bunnies will become dust dinos and take over.  And it is no different with our hearts.

Crumbs of anger or unforgiveness become bitterness.

     Seeds of hurt or betrayal become mistrust or even hate.

          Shadows of pride and arrogance become self-righteousness and condemnation.

We need to make time to clean our homes.  And more importantly, we need to make time to clean out our hearts.  Find a quiet space, shut out the world and shut yourself in with God and ask him to help to sweep out those back corners and those neglected closets.

You'll feel fresher ... and freer.
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account...  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:13, 15-16)

Be brave. Find your voice. And be free.

When is the last time you found made the time or space for self-reflection? Give yourself an early - and priceless - Christmas gift and do it today (or at least this week.)

December 2, 2011

Not Who I Was: Fab Music Friday

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation
the old has gone, the new has come! 
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

(Email subscribers go HERE to see video.)

When we let God work in us, he does great awesome things!
Put yourself back into the hands of your creator and just see what happens - you will be eternally changed.

In the meantime...

Be brave.
Find your voice.
And have an amazing weekend!

November 29, 2011

Growing Pains

Colin is going through another growth spurt. All the signs are there: constant eating, irritability, extra tired, and the worst - growing pains.  Last night, he was up until 10:30 - unable to sleep because his legs hurt "way down deep on the inside."

As a mom, I feel so helpless - there is really nothing you can do for growing pains except to try and make your child as comfortable as possible.  We rubbed Tiger Balm on his legs, cuddled on the couch and prayed...and waited for the pain to pass.  Two hours past his bedtime, he finally felt a little better and let us tuck him back in to his bed.

I do not take any sort of pleasure in knowing my children are in pain. But, I confess, I do get excited when I think about the fact that my boys are growing.  Growth is a sign that they are healthy; It is a sign that they are changing, maturing, and becoming who God created them to be.  So while I do not want them in pain, I am excited for the change that awaits them on the other side of this temporary discomfort.

Pain is not pleasant: but it can be rewarding.  An athlete knows that if he pushes through the burn, he will be stronger and healthier and he will be one step closer to meeting that goal that he has been working towards.  A woman knows that she must breathe, and then push, through the pain of contractions to finally hold and caress that precious life that she has been carrying deep within her belly for 9 long months. An accident victim knows that they must take a deep breath and force themselves to get through that next session of physical therapy so that they may reclaim the life that a drunk driver almost took away.

So much pain.  But so much reward.

I need to be reminded (often) of the adage "no pain, no gain."  I think, like many people, I want things the easy way. I want to learn to play the piano without having to practice.  I want to write a book without having to write a thousand worthless essays or blogs posts first.  I want to memorize scripture without having to study it. I want to be strong and healthy without having to put down my Pepsi and pick up a weight.

But there cannot be growth or true success or honest pride - without hard work, sacrifice, and, yes, sometimes even pain.  We cannot expect that we can sit on the couch watching reruns of "Home Improvement" and our life will just magically transform on its own in between commercial breaks.

We need to get up and run (or walk first); we need to remember what it means to sweat, to study, to think...

We need to feel the burn, push through those contractions, take a deep breath and remember that the pain is only temporary.

And what is on the other side is priceless.

Be encouraged.  Be brave. Find your voice.  And get up...and run!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)

November 25, 2011

So Furious: Fab Music Friday

1. Crank up volume.

2. Push play.

3. Listen to its message.

4. Then play it again - this time with your arms open wide.

     And sing loud.

          'Cuz God is listening.

               And He loves to hear you.

(Email subscribers, please go HERE.)

Now, be brave. 

Find your voice. 

And have a fantabulous weekend!

November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Whatever you do today, whether it's watch the Macy's Parade, share a big meal with your family or just snuggle up with a good book and a turkey sandwich, I pray today brings you rest, peace and refreshment.

...we are thankful.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Much love,

November 22, 2011

Here, Little Monkey...

All I can say is, I appreciate their honesty...


Moving along...

November 18, 2011

Speak Louder: Fab Music Friday

  You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)
This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)

>Hear now this declaration  ~  From out across the nations  ~  We need to wake up and understand

Many hurting hearts are crying  ~  But our voices seem to be dying  ~  Can you see the battle raging on?

We are the light to reach this world  ~  We are the salt preserving these souls
Let's show them the love that we've received now

We are, we are in desperation  ~  We need to reach this generation
We are speaking louder than before

We are the hope that's been forgotten  ~  We have a love that will be brought and
We are speaking louder than before

Take every chance that you can  ~  Move together taking a stand
Never losing heart, we'll speak as one

We need to be the image of Christ
Show love and serve at all times
We can make a difference in these land

We are the light to reach this world  ~  We are the salt preserving these souls
Let's show them the love that we've received no

We are, we are in desperation  ~  We need to reach this generation
We are speaking louder than before

We are the hope that's been forgotten  ~  We have the love that will be brought
We are speaking louder than before

Everything's so surreal  ~  But this urgency I feel
We should be reaching out to all these desperate pleas

Oh, the need is real can't you feel
This call to revolution
My beating heart is breaking for them
That's why I'm speaking now
That's why I'm speaking now

We are, we are in desperation  ~  We need to reach this generation
We are speaking louder than before

We are the hope that's been forgotten  ~  We have a love that will be brought and
We are speaking louder than before

We are, we are, we're speaking louder
We are, we are, we're speaking louder
We are speaking louder than before
We are speaking louder than before
Oh, yeah

Oh, yeah...

Be Brave. Let your light shine. And have a great weekend.

November 16, 2011

A Little Refreshment Please

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  (Hebrews 10:25)

I did nothing this weekend.

And I did it 2 hours away from home in a remote Minnesota lake cabin with three other beautiful women.  We talked, laughed, played games, ate lots of chocolate and drank lots of coffee, shared music and faith and struggles.  We stayed up late and slept in. We stayed in our jammies most of the day and didn't shower until the middle of the afternoon. We sat in silence and we shared God's Word.

We did all this...and, yet, we did nothing.

Because we did not chase kids, do laundry, or stress about our jobs or our churches or our homes. No one cleaned a toilet, or changed a diaper, or ran car pool for the 3rd time this week. Not one of us left to run errands, or pick up a sick kid, or attend a committee meeting.

We were four weary women sneaking away to do something other than the something that we normally do - and, in that, it felt deliciously like we were doing nothing.

And it felt good.

November 14, 2011

It's Monday & I've Got a (Meal) Plan


It's Monday and I've actually got my meal plan completed and most of my shopping done.

I rock.

Pass the chocolate.

So here's what's on the menu for this week:

Monday: Butternut Squash Soup & Homemade Butterhorns
Tuesday: Asian Chicken & Rice
Wednesday: Knephla Soup
Thursday: Italian Chicken
Friday: Subway
Saturday lunch: Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup
Saturday supper:  Supper may very well be popcorn - see below...
Sunday lunch: BLT's & Raw Veggies (we like carrots and sugar snap peas)
Sunday supper: I do not cook on Sunday nights - we have what I like to call refrigerator 'buffet'

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights will all be new recipes, so wish me luck!  I will pick my most successful meal and share it with you on Friday.

Friday we are just doing Subway because that is the day that our Pack gets in all the popcorn that we sold - over $24,000 worth of popcorn-y goodness.  Keith is the popcorn chair so it is his job so sort and organize the distribution of all our Pack's popcorn; plus the popcorn for two Packs from neighboring communities.

On Saturday, we will begin delivery of the $3000 dollars worth of popcorn that Colin sold. It will be a long weekend and your prayers will be appreciated.  Egads.

Oh, well ... let's get cooking!
What's on your menu this week? Do have any new recipes planned? Do you have you tried some thing new lately that was a hit? Or a flop?

I am also linking up to Menu Plan Monday over at I'm An Organizing Junkie!

Are You Really Here?

Last month, Colin got himself into a little bit of trouble. I won't go into the details other than to say he learned that you always need to tell you mother where you're going before you go there. Ahem.

This mis-step on Colin's part ended up in him being grounded for 4 days.  No TV, no iPod, no video games, no friends... for 4. whole. days.  His imprisonment grounding would have been long enough on its own but then add in the fact that he had 2 days off of school that week because of ND Teacher's Convention.  So because of one poor choice, Colin was grounded for all 4 days of his coveted and rare 4-day weekend.


I wasn't sure who this was going to be harder on: Colin...or Mom.

November 13, 2011

Quiet Waters

"I will refresh the weary 
                               and satisfy the faint..."
                           ~ Jeremiah 31:25

November 11, 2011

I Just Wanted to Say Thank You: Fab Music Friday

We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long
that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights.
~Felix Frankfurter

USMC Graduation, November 09

Today is Veteran's Day and I could attempt to wax eloquent about the importance of patriotism, our troops and our freedoms.

Or I could just get to the point and say what I came to say:

Thank you.

Freedom is never free: someone paid the price.  Make sure you tell that someone "Thank you."

(An extra "Thank you" to my son, Corporal Christopher M Samuels, of the USMC.  I think it's been a few days since we told you how proud we are of you!)

Don't forget to say "Thank You" to veterans today: There are a million ways to say it - just pick one and do it.

November 9, 2011

Understanding the Majesty of a Miracle

I once was lost - a hopeless sinner.

My sin was a stench, an offense to GodWholly and completely unacceptable.

I was doomed to die.  Separated from God, miserable and in agony, for eternity.

And there was nothing - absolutely nothing - that I could do about it.

And that grieved God deeply. 

November 8, 2011

Family Matters

The last couple of months have been ca-razy around here.  For those of you that are interested, here is just some of what has been keeping us so busy.

Twins Baseball:  Keith and Colin joined Uncle Kyle at the Target Center in Minneapolis for a Minnesota Twins game. It was the first time Colin had been at such a big stadium.  They arrived early so they could watch the players warm up - which worked out well for Colin who ended up with an autographed baseball and some awesome memories.  The Twins lost but they had a blast.  Thanks, Uncle Kyle!

November 7, 2011

I Want Your Stuff

People were created to be loved.Things were created to be used.
The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.

I do not know who said this but the words could not be truer.  What is going on in the world - in our own country - is crazy.  I makes me shake my head, turn off the TV, and pray a little harder.  And it makes me ask, "What is it all about?" And I think I've come up with an answer.

In a short word: stuff.

It's all about stuff.  Cool stuff, bigger stuff, more stuff...someone else's stuff.

November 4, 2011

Supercali-whatever: Fab Music Friday

Well, the weather is definitely turning colder.  And we all know the only way to stay warm is to keep moving!
So here's something to get stuck in your head and keep you motivated.

Email subscribers, click HERE to view video.

Be blessed.  Be brave.  And have a great weekend!

October 28, 2011

You Are More: Fab Music Friday

A friend had this posted to her Facebook page this week - and it spoke right to my first-born-type-A personality-perfectionist heart.

I do not believe there are any coincidences in God's kingdom, so I was stoked - but not surprised - that it went perfectly with the song I had picked out for this Friday's musical inspiration. I am thankful that God doesn't have a "well, I told you once, you should have listened the first time" attitude. Instead, in his never ending patience, he tells us again...and again...and again, until we get it.

His mercy and grace are so amazing.  Enjoy...

Be encouraged. Be brave. Be who you are.

And have a GREAT weekend!

Email subscribers, please go HERE to view the video.

October 27, 2011


I think Scrooge was on the right track: the avoidance of all celebration, the refusal to acknowledge the "occasion", the desire to close the velvet draperies, lock the doors and pretend no one is home.

He had the right attitude...just the wrong holiday.

Egads, what is this woman talking about?!

I am talking about my complete and udder disdain, abhorrence and dislike of anything Halloween.

I know.  I am weird. But whatever...I just cannot get excited about this "holiday".

October 25, 2011

If It's Got A Tail...

OK - this is just silliness but I couldn't resist.  

We've been huge VeggieTales fans for years but as the boys have gotten older we've gotten a little behind on our episodes.  Last week, we picked up "The Land of Ha's" from our local library, and boy, I cannot believe what we've been missing.  I just had to share the joy, so without further ado, I am now introducing our new favorite "silly song" (be sure to play over and over repeatedly until you can sing along.) Email readers go HERE.

*giggle* Like I said, complete silliness. But you gotta love it!

What's your favorite silly song or VeggieTale episode?  How badly does it bother you that they don't have arms? And does it ever affect your children's veggie consumption (Mom, I can't eat Jr.!)

Monday *sigh*

Monday's To-do List:

1. Shower and become human
2. Send kids off to school
3. Take a Nap Check email
4. Remember that I never ate breakfast
5. Remember that we are out of cereal
6. Eat breakfast. Fill up large water bottle.
7. Begin shopping list/meal plan
8. Take a nap Type out directions for parents on how to log in to the Cub Scout Website. Get distracted and check online news and cruise Facebook. Pet cat who is now laying on top of my laptop.
9. Finish typing directions.  Transfer money to kids lunch account to avoid nasty letter from school lunch lady.
10. Clean kitchen and make coffee
11. Pack up stuff for tonight's Pack Meeting, dig cat out of bag
12. Sew patches on Scout shirts so we can wear them to tonight's meeting
13. Take a Nap Feed cat and think about eating lunch
14. Eat some chocolate and get ready to run errands
15. Get groceries, stop at hardware store and pick up coupons
16. Unpack groceries
17. Take a Nap Kids are home from school: do homework
18. Clean bathrooms and write some letters (not at the same time)
19. Start supper, Eat supper
20. Run errand I forgot to do earlier
21. Pack Meeting
22. Run kids home
23. Go back for Popcorn Meeting
24. Make sure kids are in their beds where they belong
25. Clean kitchen, pick up kids scattered belongings, start load of laundry
26. Attempt to catch up with husband before he falls asleep
27. Play with cat
28. Take a nap.  Go to bed. Uff-da.

How was your Monday? Keith is working 15 hour days in the fields and we are all tired. I have a hard time settling in for the night until he gets home which, right now, is between 10-11 PM. So thankful for the extra hours (God always provides) and for the fabulous weather the Lord has given us this harvest - but we will so be ready for a lo-ong winter's nap when they are all done.