Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Journey

I am about to begin the next phase of the exciting and challenging experience of writing my first book and getting it published.

My children's book, Benny's Angel, will begin production with Tate Publishing in January. I have been told the journey towards actually seeing the book in print will take approximately 180 days. During that time, I intend to use this blog to journal the process, both the technical and the personal aspects, in the hope that it will interest and encourage new authors. Of course, I will continue to post on a potpourri of other topics, just as I have been doing.

I began this journey with prayer and will continue in that spirit, giving God all the praise for what He is doing through this clay vessel. It had to be His will and timing, and I'll share some about that in the days to come.

Thank you to all who have either been directed or just stumbled onto Digging in God's Garden. I pray you will consider it time well spent.

                                                                                                                          ~ Laura

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

After-Christmas Casserole

This is a delicious way to use up that leftover turkey, chicken or white-meat canned tuna.

2 cps leftover turkey or chicken, cut up (or 3  6oz. cans white-meat tuna)
2 cans Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
1 1/2 cps 2% evaporated milk
1/4 cp diced onion
1/2 cp diced celery
1 1/2 cps chow mein noodles
3/4 cp peas or chopped broccoli, cooked
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 11oz bag potato chips, crushed

Saute` onion and celery in a little butter. Mix all ingredients except chips. Grease 13" baking dish. Line bottom with almost half the crushed potato chips. Spoon mixture on top of chips. Top with remaining chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 8

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Real Story of Rudolph

Bob May was depressed and brokenhearted. His 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap sobbing. Her mother, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara looked into her daddy's eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mommy like everybody else's Mommy?" Bob's eyes filled with tears. He was overcome with grief and he was angry because it had always been different for Bob.

Bob was small as a child and was often bullied. He was too little then to compete in sports and he was frequently called names. He had always been different and couldn't seem to fit in. Bob completed college and married a loving wife. He took a job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression. Then he was blessed with Barbara. Things seemed to be going well, until cancer struck Evelyn. Evelyn's illness robbed them of all their savings. Now Bob and his little girl were forced to live in two rooms in the slums. Evelyn died a few days before Christmas in 1938.

Bob tried to give hope to Barbara, but he couldn't even buy her a gift. He decided to make one - a storybook. He had created an animal character in his mind and would tell the story to little Barbara over and over to give her comfort. The character was patterned after his own autobiography and was a misfit outcast just like him. The character was a little reindeer with a big shiny nose named Rudolph. Bob finished the book in time to give it to Barbara on Christmas Day. However, that's not the end of the story.

The general manager of Montgomery Ward heard about the storybook and purchased the rights to print it. It was distributed to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores. By 1946, Wards had distributed more than six million copies. That year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights to print an updated version. The CEO of Wards generously returned all rights to Bob May. The book became a best seller, which resulted in many toy and marketing deals. Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became a wealthy man. But that is still not the end of the story.

Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph. It was turned down by Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, but was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."

The gift of love that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again. And Bob May learned the lesson, just like Rudolph, that being different isn't so bad. In fact, being different can be a blessing.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Memory of Christmas in Bermuda

I've been thinking of favorite Christmas memories from my childhood. Yesterday I made casava pie, a traditional Bermuda Christmas dish. It is a meat pie consisting of a delicious golden crust made from ground casava meal filled with stew meat and gravy. The meal is ground from the casava root, which looks something like a long sweet potato and grows in the West Indies.  I remember my daddy making this every Christmas Eve and I still use his recipe. In the old days, when I was a child, I remember him grating the casava root himself  and my mother would use the milky liquid that was released to starch clothes in a big metal washtub. Were they really the good old days? If you ever visit Bermuda during the Christmas holidays, be sure to ask for some casava pie.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Celebrating Jesus

I've been thinking about the Reason for the season. It's easy at Christmas to get swept up in the buying mode. All around us, advertisers are clamoring for our attention and our dollars. Before we know it, we become one of those grim-faced shoppers racing around the mall looking for the "perfect" gift for everyone on our list. Some may actually end up putting their families in debt as a result of the buying frenzy.

Let's remember that Christmas gift-giving is meant to remind us of the best Gift ever given, God's only Son, lovingly sent to us by way of a manger in a Bethlehem stable. The forgiveness He purchased for us on the cross is free, no strings attached, to all who will receive it. As we celebrate Christmas, let's celebrate the gift of Jesus.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Day After Christmas

'Twas the day after Christmas and all the delight
Of the past day's festivities had faded from sight.
The toys that brought squeals just the morning before,
Were strewn all about and completely ignored.

Not a sound could be heard from the bedrooms upstairs,
As Mom mopped the kitchen and Dad wiped the chairs.
The wrappings were gathered and dragged to the door,
When a book, with a thud, fell out on the floor.

'Twas the story of Jesus, that was meant to be read
On the night before Christmas, right before bed.
What regret to remember, when the big day was done,
That the Reason for Christmas was left out of the fun.

With hearts that were heavy and tears in their eyes,
They knelt and repented for being unwise.
A firm resolution was made, then and there,
To make Jesus the center of Christmas next year.

                                     ~Laura Allen Nonemaker

Note: This poem was published previously in Kentucky Monthly and Essence Treasury: Celebrating the Season under my former name, Laura McCrea.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Passing the Torch

The Christmas season is, for many, "the most wonderful time of the year." Christmas carols fill the airwaves. The neighborhoods are aglow with colorful lights. Shoppers rush home with special treasures to put under the tree.

However, there are some who struggle with Christmas for a variety of reasons. It could be grief over a loved one who won't be present to share the festivities this year. Sometimes, memories of family conflicts during previous holidays cast a cloud over future Christmas gatherings. Others deal with a sense of loss as Christmas approaches due to "passing the torch" syndrome. By this, I mean what happens when younger members of the family step into the Christmas shoes that we have filled for so long.

It's the natural order of things, to be sure, but the first time our home is not the center of family activities at Christmas, it hurts. After all, for decades the senior members of the household have planned and cleaned and shopped and baked and decorated and - wait a minute - maybe it doesn't hurt quite as bad as I thought. Now we have time to enjoy a trip to Biltmore Estate or Opreyland or TBN or some other magical place. We used to flop in bed after cleaning so zealously that any self-respecting germ wouldn't come within a mile, and we decorated in a style that would put Martha Stewart to shame. Instead, now we get to be pampered and have our senses titillated until we think we've died and gone to heaven.

Another perk we enjoy when we pass the torch to the younger generation is that of sleeping late on Christmas morning. No more getting up at 6:00 a.m. to wrestle the turkey into the oven. With casserole and dessert in tow, we leisurely arrive at someone else's house in time to play with the grandkids and great-grands and enjoy more delicious pampering.

Yes, there's no doubt about it, it's a wonderful life indeed, when we're smart enough to pass the torch.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Star

Shortly before Christmas, our five-year-old grandson,
Brandon, bounced through our front door and climbed in my lap. He threw his arms around my neck and, with a big smile on his face, announced proudly, "I'm the star in the Christmas play!"

"How wonderful, Brandon!" I said. His grandpa signaled his approval by rubbing his head affectionately. We were bursting with pride that our precious grandchild had been chosen to star in his kindergarten play.

The night of the play, we were filled with anticipation. The band of tots filed onto the platform and we craned our necks to catch a glimpse of our Brandon. There he was, his sweet face wreathed in a huge silver cardboard star. Although he was flanked by several other little luminaries, our grandson was for us the shining star of the show.

Note: Brandon is grown now and this Christmas his two little girls will be, for us, the "stars" of their show.  

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ten Practical Steps to Bring Hope to Your Holidays

  1.  Be careful about focusing on yourself.

  2.  Reach out to help others.
       a. Practice hospitality.
       b. Donate time to charity.
       c. Give gifts of yourself - crafting, cleaning, cooking, babysitting.

  3.  Get physical exercise. Be realistic - 20 minutes, 3 times a week.

  4.  Eat, drink, rest properly. "Be sober..." (1 Peter 5: 8-10) This means without the influence of an intoxicant.

  5.  Read your Bible and meditate every day.

  6.  Live one day at a time.
       a. Set goals for today - attainable ones.
       b. You only have today - don't throw it away grieving over yesterday or worrying about tomorrow.
           (Matthew 6:25-34)

  7.  Make good plans and accept invitations. "God sets the lonely in families." (Psalm 68:6)

  8.  Write letters, send some cards, read some books, etc.

  9.  Stay connected.

10.  Go to church. "In the presence of Jehovah."  "God inhabits the praises of His people." (Psalms 22:3)

The angel said, "Get dressed. Put on your shoes." Peter did it. (Acts 12:8, The Message) God will do for us, but He expects us to do what we can for ourselves.
                          Adapted from a message by First Assembly of God Women's Ministries, Fort Myers, FL

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Giving Thanks

This is my first post on my very first blog. It's an exciting new world with a steep learning curve, but I'm getting it little by little. Thanks, Crystal - I love it!

God has been so good to me and I thank Him with all my heart. There are some amazing things happening in my life. I am watching the scripture that I have stood on for a long time, that my latter days will be greater than my former, coming to pass. Thanks to my dear husband, Paul, for your love, patience, and support as I begin this new venture. I am blessed to have you in my life.

By the time Benny's Angel, my first children's book, goes to print in 2011, I plan to add a special page for children, with interactive features related to the book. This is a lofty goal, but as Pastor Dan says, when you shoot for the moon, you have the possibility of landing in the stars!

At this time, I dedicate this blog to my precious Savior, Jesus Christ. It is my prayer that those who visit here will linger awhile to dig in God's Garden and leave enriched in spirit, mind, and soul.