Friday, December 28, 2012

It's A Wonderful Year ~ 2012 in Review

It's been a great year. I can't believe it's my last post of the year.

I thought I would leave you with some highlights of 2012.

From my blog:

The top two posts of 2012 were Should You Quit While You're Ahead (I'm pretty sure my mentions of popular Olympians at the time brought that one a little more traffic) and my post about The Screwtape Letters.

 When I went looking for my top-viewed posts, I wasn't expecting it to be these. Neither one garnered the most comments or link backs. Those honors go to The Society of Judgement fifth Tuesday rant, I Want to Make Someone Miserable, and a discussion on whether or not you believe in miracles. 

I'm really happy with my blogging this year. I learned a lot that will hopefully make next year even better. 

In my writing:

I joined forces with a group of wonderful writers to start Regency Reflections, a blog for the inspirational Regency reader. We've been having a fabulous time exploring history and books over there.

My third place finish in the Maggies was also a highlight, along with meeting the amazing writer, Julia Quinn.

The progress I have made as a writer this year is just amazing. When I think of where I was a year ago and where I am today, I am stunned by how much I've progressed. This writing business is hard work! It's true that anyone can write a book, but not just anyone can make it one you'd want to read.

In my life:

At the beginning of the year I started this whole word for the year thing. My word was Healthy. I didn't embrace it very well. I thought about it a lot and I think mentally, emotionally, and spiritually I am a lot healthier than I was a year ago. Physically however, I didn't make much progress.

How about you? What were your milestones this year? Share your highlights in the comments.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Now get off the computer and go spend some time with your family! If you were unable to travel this year, go next door and ring the neighbor's doorbell see if you can join them. Who knows? You might make a new friend.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Succeed Creatively ~ Life Lessons from the Family Craft Project

I'm addicted to Pinterest. There are so many wonderful ideas on there for crafts, decorating, cooking, really just about anything you would be interested in.

I particularly like it for finding neat things to do with my kids. I was so excited when I saw this picture for a fun Christmas craft that would hopefully keep curious little fingers off the family Christmas tree.
Cute, huh? If you want to make your own, you get get the super simple instructions here. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page. 

Now, these are apparently really popular this year, because as soon as I plopped the green felt on the fabric cutting table at Hobby Lobby the lady asked me if we were putting a tree on the wall. So I looked around and, sure enough, these suckers are on lots of family crafting blogs. You can see a really nice one here. (I couldn't find contact information to get permission to use the pic, so you get a link instead.)

I really liked the idea of this and thought it would be a fun craft the kids could participate in. They fought, they screamed, they helped me cut the shapes. And our tree looks like this:
Yeah.... just a little different there.... The little white spots were supposed to be the lights, just in case you were curious. 

At first, I was a little bummed and more than a little frustrated with how our tree was turning out. This wasn't the way we were supposed to do it. This isn't how it was supposed to turn out.

But then I watched my daughter happily slapping felt scraps around and realized that what was really supposed to happen was that I spent time with my kids and they learned to make things and do things themselves and find joy in simple things like the fact that felt sticks to itself.

And the smile on her face as she hacked up a square of felt was worth a lot more than a show-worthy craft.

So many times we forget to dig down to the deeper intention of what we're doing. We look on the surface and it doesn't look like we thought it would and we get upset. But we forget to look and see if the intention was achieved. Did we set out to do what we really meant to do? If we did, then we didn't fail. We just succeeded creatively.

Like my tree. It isn't a fail. It's just unique. And my kids love it, which is all that really matters.

Besides, if our tree had looked perfect, I wouldn't have gotten a blog post out of it.

What is the last creative success you had?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Uniqueness of the Universe ~ Jacob's Journal

This is a guest post by Jacob Hunter. Once more I have welcomed my wonderful hubby to the blog to share his theological thoughts and musings. 

I enjoy watching documentaries. I especially like the ones that deal with how things are made or how things work. Recently, I have been Netflixing a series titled "How Stuff Works." Just like most scientific programming you have to take parts of it with a grain of salt. They were doing a really good job on the series and I was learning a lot of really cool stuff. Then it got to season 2 episode 8. The only thing I can figure is that it got a completely different producer and writer. The whole feel of the show changed. They even changed the way the shows where named. Every episode up until this point was a one word title like: corn, salt, rubber, water etc.

The title of season 2 episode 8 was "How Summer Changed the World." It was a collection of world changing events that has some lose connection or another that was affected by the fact that there are seasons. The one that really caught my attention was the segment on how summer allowed life and specifically a large amount of different life (biodiversity) to live on planet earth.

I just sat there and watch and wondered "are you really listening to yourself, do you really understand how mind boggling impossible the things that you are attributing to chance are?" The authors of the show were very willing to see the uniqueness of all the conditions required for the earth to sustain life but not give credit to the creator and sustainer of that life. Watching this vividly punctuated Paul's words in Romans 1:20;

 From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

A couple of years ago a new mechanic started working at my current place of employment. We got to know each other. He knew that I had gone to Georgia Tech and that I was also a minister. One day he came to me and we were talking and he asked me, "Jacob, how in the world can a man with all of your education believe in God?"

My short answer to him was, "How can I not. Nothing I have been taught precludes the existence of God. On the contrary, it generally points to the necessity of God."

Dumbell Nebula, Picture from NASA, no endorsement implied.

Just a few Unique things about God's creation that are necessary for life that where brought out in the television show:
1. The tilt of the Earth.
2. The moon and its effect on the Earth.
3. The exact distance the Earth is from the Sun.
4. The delicate balance of minerals, elements, and compounds. Not the least of which is water.
5. The size of the Earth.
6. The strength of the force of gravity (actual all of the different forces; magnetic, strong, weak, etc. Any of which if they were the minutest bit different the universe let alone our world would not exist.)

The statistics are astounding...

I have to stop myself here. I could go on and on about probabilities and statics and drowned the whole message of this article in numbers but I will refrain.

The point I want to make is that God is AMAZING and he has made this wonderfully Unique creation specifically and unique for mankind so that His Love and Grace can be shown.

I will end with a quote from one of my Facebook friends. He didn't attribute an author to it so I am not exactly sure where it came from but I think it is a great reminder that everything in creation is unique and one-of-a-kind.

"God Is a Hand-Crafter, not a mass-producer"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Shiftable Priorities ~ Life Lessons from Sick Children

For the last few weeks, my mother has referred to my house as "The Hunter Hospital".

She's not far off.

In the last three weeks we've had just about everything come through our house. At one point all three of my children had fevers well over 100. We've had one trip to the ER, two cases of pink eye, three ear infections, and countless episodes of Blue's Clues and Busytown Mysteries. I kept expecting to get a note from Netflix that the unlimited streaming plan wasn't really supposed to be run twenty-four hours a day.

For a week and a half, during what is normally the busiest time of year, I dropped everything to sit in a recliner and cuddle my children. Why? Because that's what mothers do, at least they do when they can.

By Hmayak Artsatpanyan (1874 - 1919)
via Wikimedia Commons
Around day four, I got to thinking. Apparently, all of those pressing must-do items on my calendar were a lot  more movable than I originally thought. When something of greater priority came along, I discovered there were ways to delegate, reschedule, or cancel things I had previously though essential.

Could I have cleared my calendar like this permanently? No. Things like the dental appointments had to be rescheduled and certain obligations got temporarily shuffled off to friends. Neither of those are possible permanent states, but for a short period of time, I was able to clear my schedule for something more important.

Sick children are a nearly universally accepted reason to toss your priorities in a blender and turn yours three course dinner into an unrecognizable smoothie. I started wondering what other things are important enough to make me drop everything and just make it happen because it needed to.

There wasn't much. As I looked back, I even realized there were times in my life I told God that things He had told me to do weren't important enough for me to adjust my priorities. That saddens me.

Now, looking out at everything I have to rearrange now and the routines I have to settle back into, I'm reminded that things are not as set in stone as it seems. Life is transitory and flexible when it needs to be. I just need to remember what is important enough to engage that flexibility.

When was the last time you flipped everything upside down for something more important? What tops your priority list above and beyond the daily obligations?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cajun Night Before Christmas ~ A Peek At My Bookshelf

Have you missed me? I've been flying under the radar for a couple of weeks. I'll have a bit more on that Friday. Right now, it's time for me to share another of my favorite books with you.

When I was little, my family lived just outside of New Orleans. If you aren't familiar with New Orleans and the immediate vicinity, there's a unique subculture known as Cajun. (Here's the Wikipedia article on it. While it isn't an authority, it will give you a basic understanding of the culture and it's history.)

One of the things unique to the Cajun subculture is their speech. The dialect and vocal rhythms are unique and intriguing. Someone gifted my parents with a copy of Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair. My father read it to me as a child and I loved it.

In fact, I stole it. One of these days I'm going to buy my own copy and give theirs back as a Christmas gift. Until then, it stays on my shelf and I read it to my kids at Christmas.

The book is written in dialect, so even if you don't know how Cajun people say the word "children", you can read the book, because he writes it as "chirren".

More than just the speech is changed from the classic poem, though. Set in the bayou where many Cajuns live, Santa gets around on a skiff pulled by alligator with decidedly French sounding names. He wears brown muskrat instead of bright red velvet... which he catches on fire when he comes down the chimney.

If you're looking for a fresh story this Christmas, take a look at Cajun Night Before Christmas. It's a delightful tradition. You can buy it on Amazon, or look for it at your favorite book distributor.

Here's a youtube video of someone reading the story. Have a listen and enjoy this fun tale.

Kristi Ann Hunter is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to