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12.30.2010

10 Things I'd Change About the Last 21 Years of Marriage


Today, my husband and I celebrate 21 years of marriage. We started dating 25 years ago and I can hardly remember life without him. 21 years is a great feat considering where our society is. And yet, when I look at his grandparents who have been married for 73 years, I can hardly process it in my mind. To think that 52 years ago they were like us and to think that they've been together three times as long as we have...well, it's just unbelievable. It makes us look like babies yet.

Speaking of babies, now that I look back at our wedding picture, we really were babies then! Wow. At the time, my age of 20 and his of 23 seemed old. Now that Phil is older than my own father was when we got married, I see things from a different perspective. But we were in love and time has proven that we had what it takes to stay married. However, as I look back, there are some things I'd do differently if I had the opportunity to re-live our first 21  years.
  1. I'd spend more time listening and less time talking.
  2. I would  hand out more compliments and a lot less criticism.
  3. I'd be more patient with the differences between my mother-in-law and me. And I'd put my husband in the middle less.
  4. I would say "I love you" more and "You forgot to.." or "Why didn't you.." less.
  5. I would spend less time in my office and more time on the couch with him.
  6. I would smile more.
  7. I wouldn't pretend I didn't hear him when he says his back hurts and a massage would be nice.
  8. I wouldn't be so bossy.
  9. I'd try harder not to expect him to be perfect.
  10. I'd let him pay all the bills and balance the checkbook. Hee, hee.
Looking at my list, I realize that I still can do most of those things. And if we end up with another 52 years together, like Grandpa and Grandma had, wouldn't it be like having the chance to do it all over again, twice?

How about you? What would you do differently? How many years have you been married? If you aren't married, what have you observed in married couples that you would do differently in your own marriage someday?

Respond in the comments on this blog post and get your name entered into the December drawing. Today is your last day to enter! And if you've already entered before, your comments on this post will get you another entry.

12.27.2010

Muted Monday - Photo of the Week

The view from my front door. This is why I love snow.

Book Drawing: All readers who leave comments on posts this week will have their names added to the December book drawing.

12.23.2010

The Innkeeper's Wife

I've always struggled with the parts of the Christmas story that have become tradition, but which aren't specifically spelled out in scripture. One of those is the whole concept of the innkeeper and his wife. Last week, at a Christmas party, fellow writer Sheila Wilkinson read a piece that put my heart to rest. Rather than focusing on details about what's in the story and what isn't, she focuses on our response to the Christ Child and his family. I asked Sheila to guest blog today with her piece about the innkeepers wife because I wanted you to see just what moved me in her story. Thanks so much Sheila for guest blogging today!

-Michelle

The Innkeepers Wife
by Sheila Wilkinson

Who is she? Ever wonder? She shows up in December in some of the Christmas programs. You know – the same old, same old retelling of a story that we add so many details to. Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem to be counted because Caesar Augustus has called for a census in order to tax the people. (That is another whole story.)

When they get to Bethlehem, was the ‘no vacancy’ sign on the door or did the innkeeper direct them to the stable? Was there a stable? Was there an innkeeper? How could the innkeeper’s wife let that poor pregnant girl go sleep in a barn? Imagine that!

Well, we do not know these details. We know there was no room at the inn. So, imagine this innkeeper’s wife. Her name might have been Miriam. The house is full. Everybody is tracking in the dust and dirt. The cook is sick and the dishwasher broken.

Then Mr. Innkeeper calls to her, “Miriam, we have two more people here, soon to be three – and a donkey. What room do you want them in?”

“What room? There are no more rooms. Two families in each one already. The rest have taken all the bedding and are sleeping all over this dirty floor. I think I’m going to lose my mind. The food is gone. The kids are hungry. The babies are crying. I cannot care for one more person. Tell them to go away.” And Miriam turns, stomps off and promptly steps on the foot of a child who immediately screams, more from the confusion than the pain.

Or, was her name Adina? What would the difference be?

When Adina overhears her husband, the innkeeper, sending the young couple away, she pushes and shoves her way through the crowd. “Stop, tell them to come back. Wait!!!” In horror she says to him, “We cannot send them away. Look at her. Poor child will give birth any time now. She looks so tired. Remember how frightened I was? We must help them.”

“How?” he asks, “we are full. We have no room, no bedding and no food.”

“Our Lord would not want us to send them away. We must put them somewhere. They are helpless in a strange town.”

 And, so, they ended up in the stable. Or, was it a stable?

We do not have the facts about this place. Scripture does not even call it a stable. It says she laid Him in a manger.

Archeologists tell us that in these Jewish homes the ‘stable’ was probably part of the house, maybe even a room, where some of the animals were kept at night. Thus, it would have a manger. The house probably belonged to some of Joseph’s relatives.

The real question? Would I have been a Miriam or an Adina?


You'll find Sheila on the web at Sheila's Tidbits of Truth


All comments on this blog post will be entered into the December book drawing. Leave your name and either a link to your blog, or your e-mail- example: michelle (at) michellerayburn.com so I can contact the winner.

12.22.2010

Need Help With Christmas Recipes?

Goosberry Patch just released several free Kindle versions of their cookbooks. This means you can use your Kindle, laptop, iPad, or iTouch to view digital recipes in your kitchen. If you don't have a Kindle, Amazon has a free application for reading these free books on other electronic devices. 

Meatloaf Recipes

Happy Cooking!

How Do You Pay for Your Christmas Shopping?

I've found a way to earn some gift cards for next year's Christmas shopping. If you haven't tried Swagbucks, and you do a lot of searching or shopping on the internet, you can earn money for doing what you already do. In just two months, I've earned $30 in Amazon gift cards by searching and shopping via the Swagbucks site instead of my usual Google.

It's kind of like frequent flyer miles for internet users. By installing and using the toolbar (no spam or spyware included) I get daily points. And by clicking my favorite places to shop from the Swagbucks page, I'm getting paid a little to do what I would do anyway.

Sometimes you find a code on the Swagbucks blog and enter it on the home page. Other times, you just get points automatically when you're using the search engine. There are many ways to get points.

This week, you'll earn 20 bonus points on sign-up if you include the code SignUp2010 at registration (remember it has to be added during sign-up, not after). That means you'll start with 50 sign-up points instead of 30. Then, watch the Swagbucks facebook page, the blog and the messages on your toolbar for ways to earn points in addition to shopping and the search engine. You'll also see the widget above where you can find codes. You can cash in points for all kinds of stuff, but my favorite is the $5 Amazon gift card for 450 points.

The bonus expires on Sunday, so if you've thought about trying Swagbucks, now is the time. I know how I'll be paying for next year's Christmas shopping!

12.21.2010

The Best Gift Ever

I love giving Christmas presents. And I enjoy watching people open the gifts that I have carefully selected or hand made just for them. I like to shop throughout the year so I can put more thought into the gifts.  Okay, I’ll admit it.  It’s so I can find the best bargains and I can avoid the oppressing crowds in December.

As we look at our holiday traditions such as gift giving, we can add new significance by making a habit of looking for ways we can keep the story of Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas in the forefront. As I wrap my Christmas gifts and tuck them under the tree, one example comes to mind and I’d like to share it with you in the form of an object lesson that you can share with your own family or your Sunday school class. It’s my gift to you.

Before unwrapping gifts on Christmas—maybe after you have read the nativity story from the Bible—hold up a gift from under the tree and have a short discussion that goes something like this…

I know you are eager to open this gift and find out what’s inside. But before we do that, this present reminds me of why we have Christmas in the first place. In fact, there are some things that come to mind about our Christmas presents that make me think of an extra special Christmas gift. Does anyone know what the extra special gift is? (Allow them to answer: Jesus)

Let’s talk about the five things that our Christmas presents and the gift of Jesus have in common. (For those with younger children, have them hold out one hand and use their fingers to count off the five things as you talk about them).

1.    Prepared a long time ago.  Just as mom and dad shopped carefully for the gifts under our tree ahead of time, God had the gift of Jesus prepared a long time in advance. In fact, He promised that he would send a savior way back in the book of Genesis.

2.    Waiting for the gifts. We wait until the right time comes to open our gifts and God waited until just the right time to send Jesus as a little baby. The people had waited for so many years, and when an angel came to the shepherds and told them the time had finally come, they were so excited! Think about how we feel right now because we know it is time to open our gifts.

3.    All wrapped up. Sometimes, the gift inside a package isn’t what we expected.  Sometimes exciting things come in tiny packages, and fancy gifts come in plain brown paper. Have you ever opened shoebox that contained a toy?  Or has anyone ever disguised one of your presents by wrapping it in something unusual? Jesus didn’t come in a way that people expected him to come. They expected a king, and they thought kings were born in castles and wore crowns and jewels.  Jesus was born in a stable—a barn for animals—and he didn’t have a throne or a crown.

4.    Gifts are extravagant. A present is something we wouldn’t normally just go out and buy for one another. It is something extra special and over the top of our normal spending. When something is extravagant, it is unbelievable, incredible and amazing!  When God sent his Son Jesus to earth, he was giving us an extravagant gift, something so amazing that we cannot understand it.  Jesus came so that he could take our punishment for sin.  That blows our minds.

5.    Given in love. A gift is not given because we are obligated to give it or because someone deserves it.  It is given out of love.  God didn’t send Jesus because we deserved his gift of salvation. God knew that we could never be good enough to get to heaven on our own. He sent Jesus because God loves us so much (John 3:16) and if we receive his gift and believe in Him, we can be called God’s children.

Many people rejected Jesus when he came and many people still don’t understand God’s gift. They don’t want to believe in Jesus and receive God’s gift of salvation. Can you imagine if we left our gifts under the tree and never opened them?  We’d miss out on something very special.  Now as we open those presents, let’s remember Jesus, the best gift ever!

Reprint of Michelle's article that appeared in Wisconsin Christian News, December 2008

All comments on this blog post (posted below, not via e-mail) will be entered into the December drawing. Yes, you may get your name in twice if you've already entered by commenting on one of the other posts. 

Watch for a special guest blogger later this week and more opportunities to get your name entered.

12.16.2010

Books, Books, Books

I've been reading a lot of free books on Kindle lately and I'll post the latest Kindle freebies below. But for those of you who don't have a Kindle or don't care to read from your computer, I'm giving away a good old fashioned print book at the end of the month. 

So far, Margaret and Chris have been entered into the December drawing for a hardcover copy of "Christmas Miracles". You can get your name entered into the drawing by being one of the first three people to comment on this post. What book is on your nightstand or next to your laze-e-boy right now? Tell me in the comment section below this blog post.

Now, for the free Kindle books from Christian publishers this week. Remember, they are only free for a little while. Check back to my previous blog posts for other books that might still be available for free.

Also, if you like classics, most are in public domain and this means they are always free for download. Here's a link to the top best-selling free classics (listed on the right side). You'll also find many of them if you search the Kindle store and then sort them by price so that the free ones show up on the top of the list.

I write reviews on most of the books I read and you'll find the 70+ reviews I've written at my Amazon profile page HERE.

12.11.2010

Snowed In

You never know when plans might change when you live in Wisconsin. This afternoon, I was supposed to go speak at a ladies Christmas tea. However, 18 plus inches of snow intervened for me and I stayed home all day. Sometimes, it's just nice to be snowed in. Looks like we'll be snowed in yet tomorrow, so we'll be relaxing at home instead of venturing out to church.

It would be easy to be disappointed when plans don't do the way we want them to. But sometimes, being snowed in, or snowed under provides an opportunity for something we'd otherwise never have made time for. So when plans change because of weather, instead of getting upset, I like to make the most of it and look for the blessing. Looks like it took a few feet of snow to get me to catch up on some things I've been wanting to get done forever. It was great to get the Christmas tree decorated today and get a bunch of little cleaning projects done. 

Most of us don't mind a snow day. But what about when life snows us under? Some might be facing a health problem or a surgery that will make it impossible to get normal work done. It might be appendicitis. A breakup. Temporary or permanent layoffs at work. An unexpected pregnancy. Whatever the circumstance, it might be difficult to accept when it wasn't part of our original plan. But just like a snow day, sometimes the unexpected might just provide an opportunity to do something we'd never have taken time for otherwise.

A job layoff might mean more time for family. Or it might spur a career change that you'd never dared try before.  A surgery might be the only way some people will get off their feet for a time of rest. That time of rest could lead to a spiritual reawakening. You never know what opportunity might come out of the unexpected.

Tonight, I had to make some cancellation phone calls regarding plans for tomorrow and for the first time in as long as I can remember, every person was home and answered the phone On a Saturday night. It takes a heap of snow to get people to stay home with family and set aside their crazy schedules, but I'm sure some of them are doing something tonight that they never find time to do otherwise--talk.

What circumstance has you snowed in or snowed under? Have you been able to find a hidden blessing?

Leave your comments below. The first three people to comment will be entered into the December Book Drawing.

12.09.2010

What's on Your Reading List? PLUS Book Giveawy Opportunity


The snow falling outside my office window swirls with each gust of wind. The plow has been by several times already this afternoon and I'm reminded of my favorite recreation for this time of year. Reading. I love to read, but I feel guilty when I spend too much time in a book during the summer when the garden needs weeding, the grass needs to be cut, and my to-do list of outside chores continues to grow. But when it snows, I have no guilt about curling up with a fuzzy lap throw and a good book.

Usually, on Thursdays, I tell you about what I'm reading. But today, I have no reviews to post and no Kindle freebies to share, so I want to know what you're reading. What's on your to-be-read pile? What's on your night stand waiting for you to delve into the next chapter. What should I put on my must-read list?

Share your comments below and include the book titles and author names of your must-reads, and I'll choose the top three that look the most intriguing to me next Thursday (so you have a whole week to comment). You may list more than one book on your favorites list. PLUS, I'll enter the name of the three people who submitted the three most intriguing sounding books into my December Book Drawing. Watch for other opportunities to be entered all month.

If you want to be part of my give-away, be sure to identify yourself and include an e-mail address. This format is fine: michelle (at) michellerayburn.com .

If you receive these posts via RSS feed or E-mail, jump over to http://www.faithcreativitylife.com to leave your comments.

December Book Drawing


We love FREE books, right?

At the end of December, I'll be giving away one copy of Christmas Miracles by Cecil Murphey and Marley Gibson ($10.19 value). Watch for posts that mention opportunities to have your name entered into the drawing. Christmas Miracles is a hardcover gift book with heartwarming stories from more than 40 authors.  Your first opportunity to enter will be in a post later today.

12.01.2010

Creatively Cramped- 5 Ways to Cope

It's ironic to me that in the season where I need to get working on little handmade Christmas gifts, my writing, and other creative pursuits, I'm feeling creatively cramped. My brain is on pause. I've had a few minor health problems in the last 3 weeks. Nothing more severe than two head colds and a terribly sore neck, but it makes me wonder how people with much more challenging problems can be so productive.

I'm trying to cope with my lack of creativity and normal energy without becoming vegetative, and I've come up with a list of five ways to cope when you don't have the energy or the brain power to do the larger projects on your to-do list.
  1. Tackle tiny to-do tasks. (Hmm... was that a spark of creativity that came through with the alliteration on that "t"-laden statement? ) I've discovered that when I'm creatively cramped, I can still accomplish something. So I've tackled little cleaning tasks, returning phone calls, and sorting through my files and e-mails.
  2. Rest. I've given myself permission to rest and I've enjoyed reading several books over the past few weeks. I've become more acquainted with my fluffy white robe and we like each other. We part every morning by ten, but I like my robe so much better than my workout sweats.
  3. Let the guilt be gone. I've struggled because I have so much writing I could be doing and I feel guilty about my lack of progress. However, I've banished guilt and accepted this brain fog as a season.
  4. Encourage someone else. I've sent out a few cards and letters in the past few weeks and it feels good to encourage someone else. So often, I'm so busy that I can't find time to send notes to everyone I'd like to. Having a few down days gave me some time to catch up.
  5. Ask for help. I hate asking for help, but when my neck was stiff, I had some days where I could barely move around without pain. I had to ask my boys for help, which brought on a healthy dose of their kidding me about getting old. Sometimes it means reaching out and asking someone to pray. Sometimes it's physical help. Either way, it's important to enlist the help of people who can encourage when we're struggling.
How about you? How do you cope when you're not functioning the way you normally would?

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