This month’s Tea Cozy Booklet features “A Tribute to Mimi.” Martha Greene (of MarmeeDear & Co.) and I spent a lovely afternoon together talking about her mother, Elizabeth Gurganus, who recently went to be with the Lord. Elizabeth was a writer of poetry and a singer of hymns. Most of all, she preserved her spiritual heritage by keeping numerous journals over her lifetime. Join us for this inspirational Tea Cozy conversation.
Our featured teas of the month are Bigelow’s Constant Comment® and Celestial Seasonings Tangerine Orange Zinger®. We also have a varied selection of delicious tea recipes made with orange zest or orange juice, plus avocado tea sandwiches, and a sumptuous leek and asparagus quiche tutorial. You will also find instructions for traditional and oil pie crusts. Enjoy!
From our tea table to yours – God’s richest blessings! Jill Novak & Daughters
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Just as winter has gripped the landscape, I, too, have been gripped by life’s circumstances. In the call of duty, boundaries once clearly defined have become indistinct. My joy is gone, my cup half-empty. As the snowdrifts stretch far to the horizon, hopelessness stretches far out before me. I fight the day-to-day sameness, despairing over God ordained limitations. I cannot change my circumstances anymore than I can tell the southerly breeze to blow and melt the winter’s snow. But unlike my garden, I resist every effort to be still, to wait upon the Lord to provide the nourishment my thirsty soul longs for.
How long, oh, Lord, how long? How long will I have to endure this season Thou hast ordained for me?
Ecclesiastes 3:1 declares: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . .,” but this season is particularly long. Will spring ever come? Will hope ever spring eternal? Spring and autumn pass quickly, summer lingers, but winter is longer and harder to endure. Then I am reminded of a passage of scripture from the book of James, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Let endurance have its perfect result. There are two Greek words for the word endurance. The first is prosdechomai, which means to await (with confidence or patience), allow. The other is hupomone which means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, patient continuance (wait).
In order to experience joy in the midst of trials, I have to let endurance have its perfect result. I have to be still and wait on the Lord in hopeful expectation, knowing there is great purpose for what I am going through. And when I allow my soul to be stripped of all of its defenses, its busyness, its escapes, its pleasures–finally, when I cease striving, words of comfort come into remembrance from a loving Father who knows and cares about the minutest details of my life:
“Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”
Even when it appears there is no end in sight, in the stillness He speaks. And through the hymn writer, He reminds me to bear patiently my cross of grief and pain. How could I forget? Wanting so desperately to escape my circumstances, I fail to recognize the grace-filled moments that exist within them.
Some spiritual seasons are longer than others. There must be a time of inactivity to experience growth. There must be time of near death, for life to teem again. I embrace the lessons my garden gifts me in the dead of winter. I choose to stay hidden in my Maker, awaiting rebirth–my heart dead to its own desires, slumbering through a long cold winter of the soul.
Joy is here just waiting to be embraced.
Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side.
We’re very happy to be offering five free issues of The Girlhood Home Companion Stepping Heavenward edition in time for Christmas gift-giving! Just follow the instructions below to be entered into the giveaway.
And don’t forget to leave a comment about your favorite holiday traditions or Christmas memories! You may want to share a particular Christmas that was special from your childhood, a favorite recipe your mother always made, or a special activity you have planned for your children this year. Our audience loves reading your comments, so please feel free to share what you love best about Christmastime. We look forward to hearing from you!
We’ll announce the winners on Monday, December 7th, and send The Girlhood Home Companion on its way across the miles in plenty of time for Christmas Day!
Our best wishes to you and yours for a Joyous and Merry CHRISTmas!
Jill Novak & Family
We wish you a very Merry Christmas!
Jill Novak & Family
Of course, we mothers are the greatest book our daughters will ever read. Our faith in God, how we love our husband and children, and how we handle life’s difficulties are the most valuable lessons they will learn while under our care. As the old adage says, “Morals are caught, not taught!” The example we set day in and day out, cannot be underestimated. But the truth is, some of us were raised without the kind of spiritual and practical life skills we long to impart, so we often find ourselves learning alongside our daughters.
For this very reason, I have collected quite a number of books over the years on the subjects of godly character, manners, homemaking, and the training of daughters. These books have ministered to my daughters’ hearts and encouraged them in their Christian walk, while instructing me how to gently guide them along the path of life. Although we have produced The Girlhood Home Companion Magazine for over a decade and featured many nuggets of wisdom from my library in this precious publication, I have had a desire to share more of my collection than magazine production allows, and in a format that can be accessed topically. That’s how the idea for The Girlhood Finishing School came into being.
One of the most delightful ways to share the content of The Girlhood Finishing School with your daughter(s) is to snuggle together on the couch or around your kitchen table with a cup of tea. This quarterly publication is designed to be read together at a leisurely pace, one or two times a week, so the content of each category can be discussed, ideas pondered, and changes implemented into your daily routine as you are led.
You can create a Girlhood Finishing School binder for the eBook version, using dividers to categorize the topics such as grace-filled living, godly character, manners, homemaking, health and beauty, penmanship, copywork, etc. Print out articles from each category and reference them at any time. The Girlhood Finishing School is also available in a print version.
It is often said that we are what we read, so it is our hope that The Girlhood Finishing School will be an encouragement for both you and you daughter (s). May the heart-felt words and life-lessons you encounter in these pages from authors, past and present, be a resource you turn to over and over again for growing your daughter’s character and her faith. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2) To view the contents of Issue 1, click here.
The next issue is due out spring 2014. Please sign up on the front of our website to receive updates and product availability.
Besides reading the Bible, it was the companion’s job to read through volumes of books such as Emerson’s Essays and Voices of the Night Ballads and Other Poems by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. And if her older counterpart happened to “doze off” during one of those prolonged reading sessions, the youngster was free, for a time, to pursue her own interests.
Being a companion was tiresome work – but not without its rewards, especially if your employer planned to travel abroad. You may remember the scene in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women where Jo grumbles about the injustices of having to be the companion of that “crabby old miser” Aunt March. The only bright spot on her horizon was a potential trip to Europe. The relationship between the two March women was strained and hardly represents the true spirit in which companionship is to be given or received.
The word “companion” is found only 13 times in the Bible. In the Greek New Testament it is “sugkoinonos,” meaning “participant with others in anything, a joint partnership.” Another word which is closely related is “sunergos,” meaning “a companion of labor, one who labors in furthering the cause of Christ.”
I think these two words perfectly describe the ministry of The Girlhood Home Companion. We are joint partners with your daughter, helping her to participate in all that is feminine and lovely as she grows in the Lord, and a companion in labor, helping her cultivate godly character qualities, thus furthering the cause of Christ.
The Girlhood Home Companion is a beautiful full color print magazine that encourages young ladies (ages 10-18) to enjoy their precious girlhood years while walking closely with the Lord and developing a deeper relationship with Him. Filled with the wisdom of writers from the past and present, each edition features encouraging articles and stories that center on one character quality per issue. Each theme is explored in-depth through editorials, articles, and stories that will minister to the heart of your daughter, while teaching her the practical skills of homemaking, cooking, crafts, sewing and other girlhood pastimes.
There is nothing so lovingly designed with the heart of a Christian girl in mind as The Girlhood Home Companion. Timeless, it continues to inspire daughters, mothers, and grandmothers of all ages.
Although we are not currently offering subscriptions at this time, there are over 24 timeless issues in print to choose from. We produce new issues of The Girlhood Home Companion as our schedule allows, and notify our audience when the new ones are available.
Receive a sample issue here and sign up on our blog to be notified of new issues.
My mother was like that. Even though she suffered from a debilitating disease, I rarely heard her complain. I learned well to make “spontaneous memories” from her example. So on New Year’s Eve, I like to make a holiday smorgasbord just like she used to do for us. Mom was well known among family and church friends for her gift of hospitality and her scrumptious holiday buffets. My four siblings and I look back at those gatherings as some of the most special times of our childhood. We didn’t live near extended family, but Mom knew the power of creating traditions for our own family, and her brothers and sisters in Christ as well.
Holiday buffets can be as simple or elaborate as you like. The possibilities are endless. It’s easy to make a festive buffet by just opening a few jars of pickles or relish preserved from your summer garden. Serve them with smoked turkey or ham and swiss sandwiches on rye. I also enjoy buying a variety of specialty food items from stores like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Aldi or Trader Joes. And of course it’s always fun for the girls to take over and make a lovely tablescape using candles, pretty serving dishes, and holiday-themed paper plates and napkins. Cleanup is quick and easy and we can then turn our attention to other activities while the night is still young.
In years past, we have sometimes gathered in the living room after dinner to act out a historical play. I make duplicate copies of the script, and assign family members their parts. Then everyone runs around the house searching high and low for all the props and costumes they need. This is always done spur-of-the-moment and with lots of laughter. The memories of our spontaneous plays are precious. We have also recited poetry or played charades which is a little less strenuous on everyone, but just as fun. You can find all kinds of plays and poetry online if you are interested in going that route.
Later, if we aren’t too tired from all of our acting escapades, we’ll roll up the living room rug and dance to all kinds of celebratory music such as: square dances, John Philip Sousa marches, the Best of Dixieland Band, the original Sons of the Pioneers, and whatever else tickles our fancy. We have an old Magnavox record player (it’s the only thing that plays 78’s), but I’m sure you can create a playlist online to suit your taste as well.
Finally around 11:00 p.m., I’ll bring out a special prayer box wrapped in gold paper and tied with a simple bow. We all settle down with pen and paper and write out our prayers for the following year (you have to transcribe the prayers of children who are too young to write their own).
After we’re done, we place our prayers in the box to be left unopened until the following New Year’s Eve, and then we read through the ones we penned the previous year. It’s an awe-inspiring experience to see how God has faithfully answered our requests and fulfilled some of the deepest desires of our hearts.
I remember two years ago how the Lord did a really spectacular thing for our youngest daughter, Anna. She had prayed for a dog, and the Lord answered her prayer in “The Eleventh Hour!”
We already have another dog, Vesper, who is a little high maintenance, so I told Anna we were not getting another dog unless the Lord provided one for her. Well, on December 16th, a litter of six puppies followed their mother – a stray – onto our property. They were a Great Pyrenees mix, and because of their unusual markings, one of them captured Anna’s heart! She begged and begged me to keep that little puppy, and I finally agreed. I didn’t remember her prayer until I read her prayer on New Year’s Eve. It was truly amazing what God had done for her!
“Puppy” as she is affectionately known is the best dog we’ve ever had, and she is a constant reminder that God hears and answers our prayers in His timing. And of course, He doesn’t always answer every prayer in the way we wish He would, but we have seen Him answer the majority far better than we could ever have imagined.
If you’re looking for a practical way to teach your children about the power of prayer and an opportunity to impress upon them how personal their heavenly Father is, I encourage you to start the New Year’s Eve Prayer Box tradition. It really takes the burden off of having expectations and goals that we have to fulfill for the New Year, and puts them in the heavenly court where God can work miracles. It just takes a little faith to wait on Him.But remember, the prayers cannot be read for a whole year . . . and you’re not allowed to peek!
And lastly, if you’re going through a rough time right now, remember, traditions serve us, we don’t serve them. If all you can do is ask the Lord to help you through another year, consider beginning a new tradition of remembrance. Begin by writing your prayers down and saving them in your New Year’s Eve Prayer Box! It will help you remember what you or your family have prayed for, and I promise you, it will build your faith as you see how actively God is involved in your life!
Have a Happy New Year, and please feel free to share some of your family traditions below!
Keep a journal near the hub of activity and jot down the date as you make your entry. Record what’s going on and how you or others are feeling at the moment. Write down spontaneous comments, funny witticisms, and precious one-liners your husband and children say as they help you prepare meals, plan special outings or gather around the tree to open presents. Capture dialog, using quotations marks, and don’t forget to include the name of the one who is speaking. This sure beats searching through drawers trying to find the scrap of paper you wrote that once-in-a lifetime saying on long after the holiday is over.
When our youngest daughter, Anna, was a little girl, she exclaimed, “Mom, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I just have to burst into song!” What a precious insight into her seven-year-old world. I immediately wrote her comment down in my journal. I knew from previous experience, if left to my memory, I would soon forget what she had said.
In years past, during family celebrations, my husband and son would often say, “That’s a writer downer!”and then proceed to reiterate word-for-word a funny comment one of the girls had made. You’ll find your family members begin to value one another’s words and experiences a lot more when they know you’re preserving them in a journal.
You may think that capturing special moments depends solely upon you, but remember that children are full of words to describe their experiences. That’s what family writing is all about. It’s listening to the hearts of your children through the words of their experience, and helping them get those experiences on paper. So don’t hesitate to ask little ones if they would like you to write their stories in “The Christmas Journal.” You’ll be surprised and delighted at what comes out of their mouths!
Recording Christmas as it happens will give you a wealth of family stories to treasure in years to come. Whether journaling in your personal journal, helping a child journal in his, or recording everyone’s experiences and comments in a special holiday journal, you’ll be glad in the years to come that you preserved those precious family times.
Best of all your children will know you cherish what they say because you’re listening to their hearts and taking the time to write down what they’re saying. No material gift has greater worth than the words of our lives, valued and preserved, especially at Christmastime!
“Everyone reaches, but not everyone touches . . .
Reaching is instinctive, but, for the most part touching is learned.
For in touching we give and receive, talk and listen,
share ourselves and see into another. . .”
~Gail Mac Donald, Pastor’s wife
One of the most priceless gifts you can give your children this holiday season is a Christmas letter from you. Whether written on pretty stationary or in their journals, a personal letter from mom or dad (or both) will be a present they will treasure now and in years to come.
I still have the two precious letters that my mother wrote to me before she passed away in 1986. Her words, though few, were well chosen and gave me the vision to begin writing letters to my children. Little did she know the impact her words would have on my life, the lives of her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren to come. She left our family a legacy of love and a memorial to her relationship with the Lord. I’m so grateful she listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and took the time to write to me. These are the only letters I have from her and they are priceless to me.
Dear Jill and Bob,
It’s about 4 a.m. Christmas morning and as I lay here thinking of all of you, I want to cry for the joy God has put in my heart for our family. I’ve always prayed He would do special things with each one of you. I prayed for your salvation when I really didn’t know Him so well. Can you imagine what He has in store for all of you now that we really know Him? Know Him like we never knew Him before? May the power of God which transcends all understanding be yours forever and may the Holy Spirit hover over all of you, and protect you every hour of every day.
In the Love of Christ Jesus,
I want you to know how much I appreciate your thoughtfulness. Everything you do and say is very much appreciated by me, but I don’t always have the chance to put in words what I feel. In loving Claire, you might have some idea how I as a mother have felt for you. That doesn’t change because you are a woman, it just becomes a mature caring at this point, and seeing your relationship with Claire tells me that the love my mother had for me has come through to be seen in your love for Claire. Love is what it is all about, isn’t it? God love your little family, and may the Holy Spirit abound richly in each one of you.
When you look at the content of my mother’s letters, what makes them so profound? I believe it’s because they are filled with her testimony—the multi-generational vision of a woman who found the Lord and prayed for each of her five children to come to know Him as well.
Where do we find this kind of multi-generational faith in the Bible—a grandmother and mother who plant seeds of faith in the next generation? In 2 Timothy: 3-5. It is here that Paul gives testimony to the faith of Timothy’s grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. “I am calling up memories of your sincere and unqualified faith (the leaning of your entire personality on God in Christ in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), [a faith] that first lived permanently in [the heart of] your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am [fully] persuaded, [dwells] in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5 AMP).
The faith of these two women not only influences their immediate family, but affects all of Christendom as well. Paul calls up the memory of Timothy’s “faith” roots so He will be encouraged to keep on persevering.
If you’re excited about the idea of your words impacting your family now and for generations to come, let me encourage you to take the time to write a letter to each of your children this Christmas. If you have never written to them before, they will be blessed beyond measure, and so will you!
I have included some featured guidelines from my book Every Day is a Gift and the audio workshop Writing Letters to Your Children. These resources promise to inspire you in creative and practical ways, and make this endeavor easier for you.
First decide which kind of letter you want to write to your child:
- A spontaneous note of encouragement
- A letter about a shared experience
- A life-event letter (a chronology of events and accomplishments in your child’s life)
- A letter addressing current circumstances
- Pray and ask the Lord to give you the right words to minister to your child’s heart. You may not consider yourself a writer, but your mother’s heart when coupled with the Holy Spirit’s guiding can turn your pen into a powerful testimony of faith, hope, and love. “My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm 45:1 NASB).
- Gather scriptures that apply to your child’s life. You can do this beforehand through Bible study or when you sit down to write. Listen to what the Lord whispers to your heart. Keep a Bible nearby for reference.
- Keep a scripture notebook for the purpose of writing letters to your children. If you have quotes from other sources keep them handy in a notebook, or jot them down in your journal ahead of time so you can easily reference them in the future.
- Keep a hymnal nearby for easy reference to lyrics you may want to include.
- Make honesty and transparency a goal in writing to your child. Did you struggle with some of the same issues he/she is facing at the present time? Pen a letter that creatively ties in some of your life experiences.
- Put yourself in your child’s place. What do you think would make him or her feel unconditionally loved and accepted? Pray and ask the Lord to reveal any issues that need to be dealt with on your part. Write from your heart and use scripture to address the spiritual needs of your child. Never use the written word to criticize, but only to encourage.
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
I really hadn’t given much thought to Christmas this year–the imperfect Christmas that is–until it was upon me.
The top of the Christmas tree is still waiting for the star. Even though I tried putting everything “Christmas” in the same place in the attic last year, we still can’t find the ornaments or the battery operated candles that light up the windows. I’m sure they’ll surface in the next couple of days as I go searching through the boxes again.
Ideas for presents occasionally cross my mind, but in all honestly, I haven’t had much time to think about them because my 93-year-old father has needed a lot of attention the last few days. We have been living with Grandpa (as he is affectionately known) for the last four years, and the holidays are a little rough on him. My 14-year-old daughter has also been sick with a persistent cold for the last week, and my son and his new wife will not be able to make it home for Christmas which is definitely weighing heavily on everyone’s hearts.
It’s only the first week of December, I tell myself. I still have time . . . but time for what?
I need something more than a perfect Christmas. I need a touch from the Lord!
“Where is the nativity set?” my daughter Elizabeth asks, interrupting my thoughts.
“Out on the porch with everything else we brought down from the attic,” I reply.
“I don’t know how to arrange it,” she says.
“Arrange it any way you want to,” I say. “I took on that responsibility when I was about your age.”
She sighs. “But there’s so many duplicate pieces!”
It’s true. Over the years, I’ve added to our nativity set by purchasing individual pieces or partial sets off of eBay. There are duplicates of shepherd boys, sheep, and fife blowing minstrels. We have Mary and baby Jesus sitting on a donkey, accompanied by Joesph who is taking them to Egypt, but we’re still missing the Mary and Joseph who would be kneeling by the manger.
That got me thinking. Maybe we do miss what Mary must have gone through that first and imperfect Christmas so long ago.
“ Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 1:4-7
Imagine what it must have been like for Mary–a young girl, probably 12 or 13 years of age. Think about the shame and humiliation of being found pregnant out of wedlock in a tight-knit Jewish community like Nazareth, where everyone was sure to know everyone’s business sooner or later.
Think about having to tell the man you are betrothed to that you are carrying the Son of God–the long awaited Messiah! At first Joseph thinks he will hide the whole affair, but then he has a dream, and the Angel of the Lord tells him to marry you anyway! That must have been such a relief.
As your due date nears, you are informed that you must make a lengthy journey to Bethlehem, the town of your husband’s origin, roughly eighty miles away–and on the back of a donkey no less! Imagine the fear and apprehension of such news!
As the journey begins, you feel every jostle and jolt of the donkey’s steps. It will take a week to travel the rock strewn road before you. You wonder how you’ll be able to endure it!
Near the end of the journey, your water breaks and the contractions begin. You feel the panic rise in your chest. You have never given birth before. You need your mother’s help, but she is back in Nazareth, so very far away! There is no way on earth she can help you now.
As Joseph finally reaches the outskirts of the busy town, you begin to slump over. It isn’t long before he finds an inn, but just as he prepares to take you off the donkey, he is quickly told there is no room, even for a woman in your condition. You send up a silent, frightened prayer, Oh God, help me!
And at the last minute, when you think you may have the baby right there on the street, Joseph is offered the refuge of a stable . . .
You barley remember being lowered down onto the freshly strewn hay. How can this be happening? A cry of pain escapes your lips. You wait in exhaustion, your belly heaving, the pain rising and falling until you are finally able to push the baby out into Joseph’s waiting hands.
You can’t believe it! It’s over at last!
You stare in awe at this new little life, the Son of God, your Savior.
I’m sure Mary must have been frightened and perplexed at times like any young girl would be, but she had surrendered her will to God’s proclaiming, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Sometimes, I wonder if we can really comprehend that kind of surrender. It wasn’t easy. Nothing she went through to give birth to the Savior was easy. But with God’s all-sufficient grace poured out over her life, she was able to bear the overwhelming circumstances He had called her to walk through.One agonizing decision after another, He carried her the whole way!
And He does the same for you and me. We may not realize it at the time, but he does, and for that we can be truly grateful.
Tonight, around a “mostly” decorated tree, I will gather with my husband and daughters to read an advent devotional we began on the first. We will sing Christmas hymns together and pray, and in the sacredness of set apart moments, we will find our hearts comforted and filled with the awe that comes from being touched by presence of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at this special time of the year.
Advent is a time of reflection . . .
Advent is a time to worship . . .
Advent is a time to wait expectantly for His coming . . .
In the midst of a less than perfect life, we can enter into His presence and rejoice no matter what burden we carry. God meets us in the imperfect for that is where we receive His all sufficient grace to carry on.
I pray that no matter what you are going through this CHRISTmas, you will find the time to contemplate the love of God for you and your family, and that you all will rejoice in the gift of His grace.
“. . . My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9