Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sara's Scrub

2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger

Mix the above spices together so there are no clumps.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar

Mix together, then add 2 teaspoons sea salt; mix and then add 1 cup sunflower oil.  Mix together, and store in glass container.  Enjoy, or give as a gift!

Submitted by Sara Banze

Friday, December 28, 2012

Kim and Krickitt Carpenter's The Vow Book Club

Yeehaaaa!  As a former English teacher and book addict, I am thrilled to write in the case of The Vow the "book was definitely better" than the movie (keeping the written word alive).  The Vow written by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson tells the true story of this newly wed husband and wife who face physical, emotional, and financial obstacles after a near-fatal car accident. 
Told from the point-of-view of the husband, Kim Carpenter, it was a quick, inspiring read.  The fact the book was written from the husband's point-of-view only, though, left me wanting to know more about Krickitt Carpenter, her feelings and thoughts during this entire ordeal since it was her memory of her life with this man which was affected.  A more feminine style of writing may have softened, or at the very least offered further elaboration on such passages as, "I still yell at her from time to time and I feel bad about it"  (177).  Huh?  
For the purposes of book club, the ideal of Kim and Krickitt's decision to court one another again in an effort "to rebuild the marriage from the ground up" (162) came to mind.  So, what does one eat while at the movies on a date with that special someone?  Perhaps a buttery bag of popcorn causing one's greasy fingers to "accidentally" touch while digging for another handful may rekindle the flame.  So, a variety of popcorns ranging from sweet to savory in flavor from Chef's Shoppe in Edwardsville, IL, may not only satisfy the munchies during discussion, but also may recall a past love.  

Join us in the discussion January 16th at 7:30 p.m. in The Oak Room at Troy United Methodist Church.  

Contact with any questions.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Ten-Year Love Affair

It was a dark and stormy night (okay, maybe not, but I love that opening line from the 1830s novel Paul Clifford) in the summer of 2002, and I checked my e-mail in-box.  To my amazement, I found a grammatically correct e-mail from a man on the same dating site as I.  My heart leapt at the proper comma placement, vocabulary choices, and polite undertones (yes, I am a language purist).  Immediately, I typed a passage, hit send, and then repeatedly hit refresh in anticipation of a response.  
After two days of cordial, flirtatious correspondence, we agreed to a face-to-face rendezvous consisting of lunch followed by 18 holes of golf.  Playing in 110 degree heat index weather, we laughed, we glowed, we questioned, we perspired, we listened, and we sweltered (no amount of Degree was going to help this situation).  Not wanting to say adieu just yet, we rented a 3-hour Stephen King movie and ordered deep dish pizza in order to prolong our time together.  Finally, I returned home only to rush to my computer in the hopes of finding correspondence from this dreamy guy in question.  Alas, an e-mail time-stamped mere minutes after my exit from his apartment awaited my perusal.  I was smitten!
Six months later, three days after our first Christmas together, we were married.

He welcomed my dog and cat into our home as his own and endured several gourmet catastrophes such as boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese with a slathering of chopped garlic (hey, I tried).  We missed nary an episode of Bachelor and spent days hooting it up when we purchased our first digital camera.
Wishing to enlarge our family, God blessed us with a little girl after several years of trying.  Although a difficult pregnancy resulting in a premature birth, we endured.  Faithfully, my husband visited me every day after work and all day on the weekends when I was bedridden in the hospital.  
At this same time, my father was involved in a losing battle with cancer.  One evening my dad was unable to make the short walk from the family room to his bedroom.  My husband lifted him as a groom lifts his bride in order to carry her over the threshold and then gently walked him into his bedroom and placed him securely in bed.  To this day, my heart overflows with love as my eyes swell with tears for my hub when I revisit this bittersweet scene and will be forever grateful to God for placing this man in my life.
Twenty-two months after the birth of our first child, our second child was born.  While my daughter was allowed to go home, I had to stay another week in the hospital due to complications from preeclampsia.  In essence a single dad, he gladly took on a near two-year-old missing her momma and a newborn baby girl with an extremely healthy appetite.
Fast forward three years, together my husband and I faced a diagnosis of breast cancer (by this time, we joked he had acquired a lemon in me).  Frightened, uncertain, and exhausted, we had deep talks under cover of the night about the future of my body, our children, and our life as we knew it.  Enfolding me in his arms, he assured me life would continue as we know it during and after we experienced this hiccup in the road.  Truly, with thirty-year-old boobs, droopy boobs, no boobs, only one boob, or fake boobs, he has always made me feel as if he has won the lottery with me, and I know I did with him.
So, on this our ten-year anniversary, I offer a prayer of thanksgiving for my husband . . .

Dear Lord,
Thank you for this man blessing in my life.  Please watch over him and protect him.  Help me to always show him my love and appreciation for his presence in my life as well as our daughters' lives.  
In your name I pray,

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What precious perfume is locked inside your heart that could be lavished on our Lord?
The little treasures you and I struggle to hold on to may hold back opportunities
To worship Him with extravagant praise, releasing ministry and service to Him that will bless all those around us.

~Angela Munizzi~ 
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Carol's Confetti Crisps

40 square (about 2 inches) saltine crackers
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup butter (do not use margarine)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup mini pretzels, broken into pieces
1/3 cup chopped peanuts
1/3 cup candy coated miniature baking bits (I use miniature M & M’s)
Optional  1/3 cup raisins, or dried cranberries

1)      Preheat oven to 350.  Arrange crackers side by side in single layer on bar pan.
2)      Combine brown sugar, butter and vanilla in 2 qt saucepan.  Cook over medium heat,  stirring occasionally with whisk, until mixture comes to a full boil across the surface.  Boil, stirring constantly, 4 minutes.
3)     Immediately pour sugar mixture over crackers and spread evenly with large spreader.  Bake 10-12 minutes or  until bubbly and lightly browned.  Remove pan from oven to cooling rack. 
4)     Immediately sprinkle baked crackers with chocolate morsels.  Let stand 3 minutes, allowing morsels to soften, then spread evenly over surface.  Sprinkle with pretzels, peanuts, baking bits and optional raisins if desired.  Lightly press toppings into melted chocolate using back of the large serving spatula.  Let stand at room temp to cool completely.  Refrigerate 20 minutes to firm chocolate.  Cut into squares.

Carol Pigg

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Daily Wisdom

Faith draws the poison from every grief, takes the sting from every
loss, and quenches the fire of every pain; and only faith can do it.

~Josiah Gilbert Holland~

Submitted by Carol Pigg

Friday, December 21, 2012

You Don't Want to Let These Meatballs Roll out the Door

So, the hub surprised us by taking the day off today.   After taking our oldest daughter to school this morning, he came home and said he wanted to take my youngest and myself out on a date for lunch.  Since we'd eyeballed Sugo's Spaghetteria in Edwardsville during a few drive-bys, we decided this would be our next culinary conquest.
Entering the glass doors off of the strip mall, we were immediately transported to Sicily and Northern Italy by not only the mouth-watering aromas, but also the large, rustic wooden doors.  Seated near a window with a clear view of the open-concept kitchen, we were immediately given a swingtop bottle of water and three glasses.  This self-serve beverage service bodes well with our family since we are all wateraholics.  Also, it's nice not to have to flag anyone down when one's throat is parched.  In addition, a loaf of freshly baked artisan bread with a bowl of rich olive oil in which to dip was placed at our table.  As soon as the last piece was snagged from the communal bread plate, another loaf was placed at our table with a fresh bowl of olive oil, a carb-lovers delight.
The one-page menu was easy to read and foreshadowed the freshness of the ingredients.  Although no child's menu was available, we were able to come up with a half-order scenario which satisfied both my daughter's desire for Spaghetti and Meatballs and my desire to try the Caesar Salad along with the Chicken Spiedini Special.  Unsurprisingly, the hub quickly opted for the House-made Lasagna.
Expecting a huge bowl of spaghetti with maybe three golf-ball sized meatballs, we were all pleasantly surprised when a meatball nearly the size of my four-year-old daughter's head was placed before her embraced with perfectly-cooked noodles.  The fresh basil inside the meatball along with the seasonings was like an explosion of Sicilian splendor in our mouths.  Yes, I have now vowed to give my basil garden yet another try this planting season.
The seemingly deconstructed lasagna with "way more meat" (a culinary term) than noodles covered the entirety of his plate.  The slivers of fresh Parmesan on top with ricotta and beschamel sauce delicately layered throughout was like icing on the cake.   
The Chicken Spiedini had been skewered and then sauteed until a flavorful crust had been formed.  Making the "mistake" of offering some of the chicky to my daughter, she kept coming back for more.  Well, okay, I snagged pieces of meatball off of her plate, too.
In fact, after we had all played musical plates more than once, not a bite was left for a "hamster bag."  Shhhh!  Don't tell Sweetie!
In the end, we waddled to our car with full bellies debating who had ordered the superior item on the menu.  Perhaps, we'll just have to return sooner rather than later in order to try and resolve this conflict.   

Courtney Winkler 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 20th

Today is my birthday. I was born five days ahead of Mom’s due date.  As a child, I used to think it was no fun being born so close to Christmas.  However, my family found ways to make it a great celebration.  We all got to pick our favorite dinner (back then it was home fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn mixed together) and Mom’s famous chocolate cake with real whipped cream for icing.  Many years later, my oldest brother remarked, “Gee, I didn’t know you could have a cake with icing.  I thought they all came with whipped cream.”  I remember her freezing the bowl and beaters, so the whipped cream would beat up faster.  (Yes, I still do it that way, too!)
We put up our Christmas tree on my birthday.  Anyone else remember making “snow” with Ivory soap flakes and pasting it on the tree?  We had icicles made with lead base, colored lights, and handmade paper chains.  When I got married, I was so surprised people put up their trees at Thanksgiving.  To me, that was way too early.

Our celebrations were small, but heartfelt.  Mom as a stay-at-home mom.  Dad travelled a lot with his job.  It was my three brothers, Eric, Mark, Keith and me as well as our dogs throughout life.  We had Flip (named out of the Dick and Jane books,) followed by Koko (named after a young man Dad met in Korea while serving in the Air Force,) followed by Sam, who came after I left the household to attend college and have a full-time job. 
We got to pick out our favorite 78 RPM records and play them starting on my birthday.  That’s where my love of Big Band Swing began.  “Begin the Bequine,” “Girl from Impanema,” “Green Eyes,” and the special, “Maria Elana”  otherwise known as the song my parents met to while at a USO dance in Chicago during WWII.  While I’ve never heard it, I understand ‘”Naughty Girl from Shady Lane” was playing on the car stereo on the way to the hospital for my birth.
We sat at the dining room table every night for dinner.  We all had to read the Wall Street Journal and talk about an article.  We also had to talk about two other things we did that day that were interesting.  There was no TV on, no radio, and, naturally, no cell phones.  (We only had two phones in our entire house in those days.)  Yes, we talked. 
We made snow angels in the front yard, rolled down the big hill on our sleds, and didn’t come in until the cow bell rang. We put out the birdseed all the time, and learned the species particular to the Midwest.   We were in all the school and church plays.  Life was good.  

What are your birthday and holiday memories?  Bless God for your family life and continue to bless Him for  your current life.  And thankfulness for another year with Christ, as we prepare to celebrate His birthday.
Blessings abound.  Find yours today and make your memories.

A “Christmas” Carol, Carol Pigg

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

What I've never understood is when people are told about the love of Jesus and how much He wants us to love Him and give our lives to Him, a lot of people will say "I'm not a good enough person." or "I've done too many bad things." ......But that's the whole point of the gospel!!! Jesus looks beyond all of that! He doesn't see us as we see ourselves. He looks on us with an incredible love that we cannot even imagine the depth of! He knows that we make mistakes. He knows that we have flaws and weaknesses. He knows that we will do things to break his heart. He knows everything about us. He knows us better than we know ourselves! AND HE STILL LOVES US and wants us to be His children and follow Him.

Lately I've really been struck by the significance of Jesus Christ's love for me. So I know that Jesus loves me (the Bible tells me so) and I know that I am supposed to live my life the way Jesus would want me to live it. So, shouldn't I show Jesus' love to others? Not just people in my home, or people I love in my life, but everyone? Why don't I??? Why do I judge people negatively in the instant that I see them, instead of trying to look at them as Jesus looks at them? This is one area that I am REALLY working through right now. I want to see people and love them the way Jesus loves them. I want to see someone in need and help them in any way that I can. I am a very blessed woman. God has given me so much, and lately I have really felt this desire to give to people in radical ways. I'm not going to list what I've been doing, because I want that to remain between me and God. As I've started giving more, I just felt like there was something missing. And lately, as I've thought about it, I think what's been missing is the love of Jesus. I can give and give and give, physical things; but if I am still looking on strangers with judging eyes and scoffing thoughts, and not in love, then what good is my giving?? I want to see people through the eyes of Jesus; to see people the way Jesus sees them. I want everyone to know that there is NOTHING that you have done or said or thought about that Jesus doesn't already know about....AND HE STILL LOVES YOU!!! He still wants you to love Him and give your life to Him, so that He can greet you in Heaven some day! No matter what you've done, no matter how many bad choices you've made. No one is perfect. Not even me.....

Romans 3:23 For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 8:39 Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

1 John 4:7 Let us love one another, for love comes from God.

1 John 5:2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands.

Lisa Powell

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Told with Candy

As you hold these candies in your hand, and turn them, you will see.

The M becomes a W, and E, and then a 3.

They tell the Christmas storyIt's one I'm sure you know.

It took place in a stable, a long, long, time ago.

The E is for the East where the star shone so bright.

The M is for the Manger, where Baby Jesus slept that night.

The 3 is for the Wise Men, bearing gifts, they say they came.

W is for Worship, Hallelujah, Praise His name!

So as you eat these candies, or share with a friend,

Remember the meaning of Christmas, a Love Story that never ends.

Sumitted by Courtney Winkler    

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Daily Wisdom

We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they
Believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by
Showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their
Hearts to know the source of it.

~Madeleine L’Engle~
"Another of my fav authors, especially the book A Swiftly Tilting Planet."
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Daily Wisdom

As I go to sleep, I turn over to Him all those people I have been
Carrying in my heart. He never slumbers, He never sleeps, He never
Fatigues, He never stumbles. I won't pick them up again unless He
Prompts me to do so. His burden is light, His yoke is easy. He carries
The heavy end of the load, always. I am just His kid carrying what I can
Carry and He is a good Dad and never gives me a burden that would
Discourage or harm me by its weight.

~Katherine Walden~
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Vomit, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed for the Lord your God is with you. 
– Joshua 1:9 

Okay, I’ll admit it, I suffer from emetophobia. It is one of my major weaknesses as a mother, and it definitely contributed to my early decisions not to drink to excess or acquire an eating disorder. So what is emetophobia? Let me spit up the definition for you right here: fear of vomiting.

I doubt there are many people out there who like to vomit, but I will do almost anything to avoid it. For example, I do not kiss my kids from October 1st to March 31st. After studying my childrens’ puking habits for many years, I have determined that this is the most opportune window for contracting the stomach flu. The way I see it, if I do not kiss them or touch their grimy little hands during that six month period, I significantly reduce my chances for getting the flu bug from them. So you won’t think I’m a complete nut case, devoid of emotion, I do occasionally kiss them lightly on the cheek during the winter…very reluctantly. I would be much happier doing it if they made Lysol lip gloss.

Whether you concur with my kissing parameters or not, I’m sure most of you will agree that there’s nothing much worse than waking up out of a deep slumber and hearing the dreaded words, “Mom, I think I’m going to be siiiiiiccckk!” It is at that point that I elbow my sleeping husband and shout, “Honey, one of the boys is sick in the bathroom. You need to get up and help him. While you’re holding his feverish little forehead and rinsing his rancid little mouth, I am going to call and make myself a reservation at Holiday Inn Express. I’ll see you in a week.” Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. I do not get a room at the Holiday Inn, but I would if we could afford it, believe me! Instead, I walk around the house for the next ten days, picking up all sheets, towels and clothing with tongs; spraying everything that doesn’t move with Lysol; and sleeping in a distant corner of the house, all by myself. Yes, stomach flu is a failsafe contraceptive device in our home.

Over the recent holidays, we got to practice our stomach flu emergency response procedures at my Mom and Dad’s house. At about 5:30 A.M. on Christmas morning, our bedroom door flew open and Rebecca groaned, “Mom, I just threw up, and it was bad. Merry Christmas.” As usual, I rolled over, nudged Bruce, and said, “Rebecca just barfed. You need to check on her and see if anything needs to be cleaned up.” We both got up so that he could comfort her and check for “projectile overshots,” and I could find a good place to hide. Unfortunately, my Mom forced me to come up from the basement and warn the other seventeen people at their home that Rebecca was hurling last night’s turkey as we spoke. Everybody just smiled and shrugged off the news, saying, “Oh, well, that happens. Let’s open our gifts and then we can play cards and board games, like we do every year.” What were they thinking?! Pass cards around a table?! Touch each other’s game pieces?! There was no way I was going to play or be anywhere near these people, all of whom might be contagious, carrying whatever it was that our dear daughter was spewing upstairs at that very moment. I suppose this is where my misophobia kicks in. Misophobia is fear of germs, and I’m only a misophobe because of my emetophobia. I hope you’re getting all of this because it may explain why I’m snorting Purell and wearing my Michael Jackson rubber gloves and face mask the next time I see you.

Very similar to the gloves and mask I donned on Christmas morning, I might add. While everybody else was whooping it up downstairs, playing games, I bravely sat with Rebecca while she ran back and forth to kneel before the porcelain god for the remainder of the day. I suppose I should be honest here…I did not actually sit with her. As a matter of fact, I was clear across the room from her. . .just close enough to notice if she was slipping into a coma so that I could call Bruce and get help if necessary. I was not going to risk any contact with body waste or exhaled organisms, daughter or not.

That night, everybody slept soundly, but that was the last night anybody slept for a while. Yep, one by one, fifteen of the nineteen people in the house fell victim to a wicked strain of the flu virus thanks to Typhoid Annie, I mean Regurgitation Rebecca. It made its way through the house like the Ebola virus on steroids, and made those cruise ship outbreaks appear to be nothing more than a bad reaction to a Kathy Lee concert.

Just in case you were wondering, I was one of the four lucky ones who did not get the flu, thank you very much. When everybody else was upchucking their pecan pie, I was teaching myself to knit while wearing rubber gloves. There is something to be said for certain mental illnesses.

Sue Busler

Monday, December 10, 2012

Daily Wisdom

People are like stained-glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in,
their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. 

~ Elizabeth Kubler Ross ~
 Submitted by Carol Pigg

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Nike's Devotional: Paws-ing to Say "Meow-y Christmas!"

Mommy made a commitment to write a devotional each month for the Ruby
Magazine.  But she has been really busy, and I want to avoid a cat-astrophe.  So I am jumping in and taking things into my own paws.  

Let me introduce myself.  I am Nike McKellar, the most affectionate cat in the world.   As you can see, I'm also pretty good at walking across the computer keyboard and using the mouse.  You should feel honored because I'm usually sleeping on my heated kitty cushion, sleeping in the sun, sleeping under the desk lamp, sleeping on Daddy's lap in the recliner, or perching expectantly on the kitchen railing.  I wake up and leap to the railing whenever I hear the refrigerator door.  I have Daddy trained pretty well, so he usually comes through with a few shreds of my favorite ... cheese!  Mommy just gives me a few pets on the head when I'm perched there, but that's okay too because I love getting attention.  My life is almost purr-fect, except that Mommy and Daddy don't spend enough time sitting around in the living room or feeding me cheese.  

Well I promised you a devotional.  So here goes.  Cats are special!  The Bible says so!  "God made ... all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:25).  He included us cats along with Noah when He sent that first rainbow: "And God said, 'This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you'" (Genesis 9:12).  He loves cats and cares for us! "He gives food to every creature. His love endures furr-ever" (Psalm 136:25).  He even included cats when Jesus was born!  "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, 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)  I'll bet that made the barn cats purr!  Yes, cats are special!  "My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name furr-ever and ever" (Psalm 145:21).

Well, I gotta go now - I need to get back to my 23 hours of sleep for the day!  But before I do, let me remind you that Santa Claws may be fun, but Christmas is really all about God's purr-fect gift to all of us ... His Son Jesus Christ!  Meow-y Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

Your furry friend, 
Nike McKellar 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rhonda Tibbs' Shadow Book Club

Ooops!  She did it again . . .  Rhonda Tibbs', author of her fourth novel, Shadow, reeled me in yet again.  Shadow, is a coming-of-age novel about Danny Coulter, a budding artist, and his affinity for the Kiamichi River.  A fan of her writing, I was anxiously awaiting the first installment of her latest series.  Yet, upon receiving my copy, I read slowly and methodically, taking forced breaks, knowing that if I dived in head first, there would be no stopping me until the last page was turned.  Alas, though, a stretch of a few hours on a rainy afternoon drew me into the novel, and there was no point of return.
Tibbs' ability to harness the turbulent emotions of young love and then deliver them on paper is not only addicting, but nostalgic.  In fact, my own sixteen-year-old self- long a memory- manages to come alive again at the turn of every page.
For the purposes of book club, weather permitting, an informal picnic complete with a blue and white checkered tablecloth at the local park would be ideal.  A basket bearing ham and cheese sandwiches, potato salad, pickles, and bottled soda would recall Danny and the female protagonist, Isabelle's reunion after a summer spent apart in 1967.  For the matter of dessert, this meal would not be complete without Mama Rose's chocolate chip cookies.

Courtney Winkler

Monday, December 3, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes with Women Blessings

Thank you Julie for inviting me here today to share my story. Because of your willingness to include me over a year ago in the Women's Retreat, I am here today to tell this tale. Thank you for your notes of encouragement, prayers, nourishment, and the gift of One Thousand Gifts. You fill me, Woman. 

Last year, I turned 40. If you're a woman, you know what this means . . . mammogram time. My first mammogram was scheduled the first week of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Because of suspicious findings, they immediately sent me for a sonogram. The results concluded a breast excision was in order. This is where they put the breast in question in the mammogram machine and then thread a wire into the breast to the mass. From there, they take you into surgery. What is interesting to note is that I never had any lumps. I had night sweats, but just assumed this was due to the possible onset of early menopause. Sorry, I know you've just eaten, but one night I did wake to nipple discharge which I now know is a symptom of breast cancer.

In the meantime, I had e-mailed Julie Ford regarding my interest in the Women's Retreat. I didn't know anyone who was going, but it sounded like an experience I didn't want to miss out on. After a few exchanged e-mails, Julie invited me to help plan the Women's Retreat. Without hesitation, always up for a new experience, I said, “Sign me up!” and I was soon introduced to more women blessings via Julie: Deb Inman, Angie Henshaw, Cindy Whitcomb, Dannette McKellar, and Sue Hansel to name a few. Each of these women became instrumental in my healing through prayer, nourishment, sharing of her own story, listening, and the teaching and loving of my oldest daughter, the one who was affected the most by the upset of this past year. Thank you! You have filled me. 

Shortly after the retreat, the call came where I was indeed positive for invasive tubular cancer. My three-year-old was a few feet from me when I received the call. I remember the adrenaline racing and my body entering fight or flight mode. My father had passed five years previous after a gruesome 11-month battle with cancer, so I had a first-hand glimpse of what may lie ahead. I had to fight. I had a 3 and 5 yr-old, and they needed more time with their momma. We scheduled the lumpectomy for the week of Thanksgiving, the one chance to save my ta ta. Soon after sharing the news, a knock was at my door. A woman blessing came in, prayed with me, wrapped me in a prayer shawl, listened, and shared. Before we knew it, the once lit room in which we were sitting was now dark. Time had passed, tears were shed, and I felt so much better. Thank you Cindy Whitcomb for filling me. 

One morning prior to surgery, I awoke thinking the word needs to be spread about breast cancer; let's turn a negative into positive. I e-mailed Deb and asked if a Get Pinked Party might be possible. She replied, “Yes!” and helped turn my impulsive idea into a reality. Many prayers of thanks for you, Deb, throughout this entire process.

My Women's Retreat roomie and tennis buddy, Masja LaRue donated a delicious pink ribbon cake and assisted Mary Kennett, who offered her hair services for pinking free of charge. This was a welcome distraction, and I enjoyed every minute of it connecting with more women blessings of all ages: Tonnie Schalk with her infectious laugh, whom I had only met a few times, not only jumped in and started painting nails, but also shared her own story. Thank you, and thank you to the many other women blessings who were Pinked that night. Your support filled me. 

A mastectomy was now inevitable, but while Chad and I were listening to the surgeon explain the skin-sparing procedure and follow-up treatments, I inquired about a double mastectomy. I did not want to have radiation and scans every six months. With two squirts, who has time for repeated doctor visits? The truth is I didn't want to make the time; instead, I wanted to use my time for authentic life experiences. I was fully resigned to the fact that this body is simply a shell, and we can't take it with us. I had witnessed my father's body shrivel to practically nothing, and it still haunts me to this day when I visualize it. I didn't want my girls to have to ever witness this, so I opted for removal of both breasts and honestly felt relieved about my decision.

My best friend and woman blessing, Sarah Bohnenstiehl, from the beginning campaigned for the double mastectomy, and I remember telling her she was nutty. In the end, though, and as always, I backtracked and told her she was right. She is always right! When I bounced worries and concerns off of her, her response was “Cansah Schmansah!” which became my mantra. The approach to treating breast cancer is aggressive and swift. One morning it had finally all sunk in, and I called my BFF crying. Her response, “I'll take Sissy for the day,” which is exactly what I needed. I needed that day to myself to let it all out, and I couldn't do that in front of my children. I am grateful every day for this woman blessing and work on intentionally letting her know.

As a further distraction, Deb and Julie wholeheartedly gave me the green light to go ahead with RUBY Magazine. I was so motivated and so full after our Women's Retreat I wanted to offer a means to further facilitate connections between women at Troy UMC. Meeting women at the retreat I may never have met as well as The Journey Team at Christ Church was the inspiration. The Bible verse, Proverbs 31:10, “She knew that she was worth far more than rubies . . .” always a favorite became the theme of Ruby. Little did I know at the time that we had our very own little woman blessing, Miss Ruby Price, right here with us at Troy UMC.

After a “heavy” forgiveness workshop at the retreat, I was in the food line talking with a woman from our church. We had this deep conversation about dysfunctional childhoods and forgiveness not knowing each other's names or stories. Months later, I ran into this same woman at church, and she agreed to a RUBY interview. While talking, she shared how she, too, was a breast cancer warrior and gave me such hope. Here she was this strong, active, square-dancing woman. Thank you Sue Hansel for filling me. 

After my surgery in January, women blessings immediately sprang into action by nourishing my family and myself with delicious meals. . . taking the time to stamp carrots into star shapes (Masja LaRue) which my girls loved and delivering pizza in a sleet storm (Amy Burrelsman). Every evening for six weeks, my whole family looked forward to our surprise meal with anticipation and then devoured the bounty Thank you to the women blessings who literally filled me and resulted in at least a 10 lb weight gain.

In addition, the notes, e-mails, and texts meant everything to me. Two women blessings chose to sooth me with cds which had helped each of them in their own times of need. Thank you Suzanne Price and Heather Budwell for filling me through music.

In February, I was hospitalized twice for infections which led to an unplanned surgery to remove one of my tissue expanders. My girls did not take this well. So, women blessings again came to the rescue. Sherri Volz and her boys accompanied Chad and my girls to the tubes at Mickey D's one Saturday only to care for my diarrhea laden daughter in the restroom. When I returned home from the hospital, Sherri asked if I needed anything. I responded, “Boobs!” Little did I know she would bring me my very own boobs complete with nipples and a bra in the form of cake. Thank you for filling me and making me laugh, one of my favorite pastimes. 

Between hospital stays with drains hanging out of my sides and my chest wrapped in a surgical bra, a woman blessing came to my house on several occasions complete with hair supplies to at least keep my hair rockin'. Thank you Miss Mary for filling me. 

With a prosthetic left ta ta to now even me out, infections cleared, and implantation insertion scheduled, I was anxious to live a full life again. Having met a woman blessing while volunteering for VBS the previous year, I looked forward to joining her and other women blessings in Faithful Fitness by completing two 5Ks with her. Thank you Beth Miramonti for inviting me to feel whole again and begin work on losing those 10+ lbs.

In other aspects of my spiritual life, I was anxious to become involved. While waiting to speak to a staff member one morning, I decided to have some private time in the sanctuary. A woman blessing I had seen at the Women's Retreat, remembered her cute do, but didn't know entered the sanctuary and asked if I'd like her to pray with me. Unbeknown to me, I was relieved at her invitation and tears began to fall as I relayed what was heavy on my heart to this stranger. I had recently received a text message on Easter morning from a female blood relative informing me that my breast cancer was God's way of punishing me. This woman blessing's prayers that morning lifted the weight bearing down on my heart. Thank you Sue Busler for being intentional and approaching me. You fill me. 

You are all women blessings, and I thank you for filling me every day. As a reminder of your ability to nourish families, mend broken hearts, and evoke laughter, I have a tiny mirror for each of you to stow away in your coin purse, for example. So, the next time you're riffling through your purse, perhaps this mirror will be a reminder of all you are capable of in improving the lives of others and my everlasting gratitude for each of you, my sisters in Christ.*

*As a side note, the focus of today was on women blessings. Men blessings, too, first and foremost my husband, raised me up this past year, but that talk is for another day.

Courtney Winkler

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Granny's Christmas Crunch

From the kitchen of: Beth Miramonti  
Preparation time: 15 min
Note: Super easy recipe! Highly addictive and totally unhealthy, be warned!
  • 1 pkg (1lb 8 oz) Vanilla Almond Bark
  • 1 Cup Captain Crunch cereal
  • 1 Cup Captain Crunch Oops All Berries
  • 2 Cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 Cup small pretzel sticks broken in smaller pieces
  • 1 Cup peanuts
  • 1 ½ Cup mini marshmallows
Experiment with different cereal combinations to change the colors and flavors. Holiday edition cereals, when you can find them, have fun shapes and colors. We also sometimes add M&M’s or flavored baking chips (Choc, peanut butter, butterscotch) YUMMY!
    1. Mix all dry ingredients
    2. Melt bark on low heat till creamy. Microwave works really well for this. Heat in 30 second intervals and stir well between blasts.
    3. Add dry mixture to melted bark and stir until well coated.
    4. Spread out thinly on cookie sheets to cool.
    5. When cold, break into pieces and place in airtight container.
    6. Store in cool location, but do not refrigerate.
Yield: approx 8 cups.
My Mom (Granny) has made this every Christmas for the past 15 years or so. She loves to use it for small gifts to share with friends, coworkers, service personnel and just about everyone she meets around the Holidays. We were happy to share this with all of you and the guests at Troy UMC’s 3rd annual Ladies Christmas Brunch.
Enjoy and God Bless

Picture Perfect

“…for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7b

A few years ago, my husband desperately wanted me to have a Glamour Shots photo taken so he could look longingly at me all day at work. I refused for months and then, in a crazed holiday stupor, I made an appointment to have one taken as a surprise gift for Christmas. And, boy, was I in for a surprise! You could almost hear the silent alarms going off when I walked into the place -- “Uh, oh. Level three disaster. Team One, dig out the industrial strength make-up. Team Two, bone up on hair miracles. Team Three, start praying.” Despite the behind-the-scenes scrambling, the receptionist smiled politely and escorted me to a chair. There, I was introduced to my own personal aesthetic specialist. An anesthesiologist probably would have been better. She proceeded to fluff up my very short, straight hair which, realistically, was about her only choice since Rogaine and hair extensions were not an option. Next, she slathered on enough make-up to completely obliterate all traces of the original me, which was the whole idea anyway, I guess. From there, we moved on to the wardrobe room. After sizing me up and down for a few minutes, she went to the racks and came back with a black leather halter top, complete with metal studs and a Harley Davidson logo. I told her I really didn’t think it looked like me. She sighed and went back to the racks, this time returning with a perky little cheerleader’s ensemble with matching pom poms. I shook my head “no” and she asked, in a slightly perturbed voice, “Are these photos for you or your husband? These pictures are supposed to feed his fantasies.” I was about to blurt out that his fantasies were overfed as it was when she walked off in a huff, muttering something about my “deprived husband.” She quickly returned with a strapless velvet gown designed to show a little cleavage, assuming you have a little cleavage to show. I was afraid she might hit me if I rejected the gown, too, so I dutifully agreed to use it for one photo, all the while kicking myself for leaving my wonder bra at home. After that, I selected a few tailored suits to satisfy my own fantasies of dumping the sweat clothes, getting a job, making my own money, and coming in late to find the kiddies in bed, the dishes done, and the love slave waiting (like somebody else I know). After much discussion, Trixie, my assistant, reluctantly agreed to the suits or the “realtor look,” as she described it…“a real turn-on.” We took the three outfits, picked out some gaudy accessories, and headed for the photo studio. The photographer told me to relax and pretend I was a model. What did he want me to do? Regurgitate my noon meal and start flouncing my one-inch long hair. He pushed my head over to a very natural-looking 30 degree tilt and had me hold a fake rose over my bare shoulder. Next, he told me to give him a sensuous look with my lips moist and slightly parted. It was obvious from the look on his face that my “come hither” attempt looked more like a serious case of rabies and lock jaw. Things went down hill from there. After the photo session, Trixie took me to the front of the store, where I immediately got to look at computer-generated proofs of my photos, right along with every Tom, Dick, and Harry who strolled by in the mall. The assistants oohed and aahed, on cue, as the photos flashed up on the screen, while I writhed in my chair making low guttural noises. So as not to prolong this very painful process, somewhat akin to stories I’ve heard about bamboo and fingernails and hot coals, I quickly took out a second mortgage and bought a stack. I bought a cheap frame, put one of the velvet-rose-rabies shots in it, wrapped it in Muppet Christmas paper, and put it under the tree. Guess what? He loved it. 

Sue Busler

Friday, November 30, 2012

Daily Wisdom

Jesus, who died for thy sins, is worthy to receive power, and riches,
And wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. We can
Never ascribe too much to Jesus. But He is worthy also to be believed,
In preference to Satan, unbelief, the world, or appearances; to be
Trusted with all, for all, before all; to be loved more than any other,
In opposition to any that would rival Him; be followed, wherever He
May lead us, through evil report or good report; to be preferred to
Ease, pleasure, wealth, health, to anything and everything. Jesus is
Worthy to be our example, our confidant, our king, and our all. He is
Worthy of all He requires, all we can give, all His people have done for
Him or suffered in His cause.

~James Smith, in Daily Remembrances~
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Daily Wisdom

Prayer should be free, spontaneous, vital fellowship between the created person and the personal Creator, in which life should touch life.
The more that prayer becomes the untrammeled, free, and natural expression of the desires of our hearts, the more real it becomes.

~Ole Kristian O. Hallesby~
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Daily Wisdom

Constantly choosing to be busy may be an unconscious attempt to have
Value before the Lord. To deepen requires exactly the opposite! We must
Slow down, choosing to spend blocks of time with God in private. We need
To let go of the value we place on service, availability and busyness
And take up the value God places on quietness, trust and peace (rest).
We need to be aware of being too needed in any work; we are not! God
Calls us not foremost to "accomplish," but to a deep relationship with
Himself. A deep friendship with us as persons is what He desires most.

~Dr. Stanford~
Submitted by Carol Pigg

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Choose to Have a Great Marriage

I'll be honest. This past week has been a rough marriage week. We've been bickering about every little thing; there have been a lot of outside stresses that we haven't handled as well as we could have; we haven't spent much time alone, etc. What occurred to me in a brief moment of clarity this week was that the difference between me now and me a few years ago is that I care about our marriage now. I know that sounds harsh, but a few years ago, I completely took my marriage for granted. I subconsciously thought that no matter how I treated my husband, he would never leave me. Ha!  I have since realized the ignorance of my subconscious mind!  A person can only tolerate so much, and about 5 years ago, we both had reached our limit. We have worked so hard on our marriage the past few years. We have talked more, prayed more, shared more, laughed more, and cried more than we ever have together! We have learned the hard way that it's better to get our feelings out in the open no matter what the consequences, than to keep them inside and make each other miserable.  We work daily on making the other person happy.  We have changed more as individuals and as a couple than we ever have!
So, Sunday as I was driving into church, I put my ipod on the itrip and was flipping through songs. The song The Blessing by John Waller came on. The words to the song stopped me in my tracks.

"This day You set life,
You set death right before us.
This day.
Every blessing and curse is a choice now,
And we will choose to be a blessing for life."

All of a sudden this light bulb went on. Not that I haven't heard stuff like this before, but in an instant it struck me. I can choose to do and say things that destroy my marriage, or I can choose to say and do things that build up my marriage and make it GREAT. This past week, I have been doing and saying things that have been destructive to my marriage. I was CHOOSING to be that way! Maybe not consciously, but I was still doing it nevertheless. When I got to church I told my husband that I was going to choose to do and say things to make our marriage GREAT. I wasn't going to be negative about things that have come up this past week. I was going to do what I could to live in peace with him this week and make our lives happier! I CHOOSE TO HAVE A GREAT MARRIAGE! Will you?

Lisa Powell