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Sweet Grace: hope-filled

March 13, 2013

Note: While we are working on our website, the monthly newsletter will be found on the blog.  Once we have it finalized, the newsletter will be available by subscription only.  Graciously, we have some guest posts in this newsletter as we welcome submissions from our friends for the newsletter. Our lives have been enriched by the friends that God has put in our paths, and we would love for you to get to know them a little bit as well.

~ Real women ~ Real lives ~ Sweet Grace ~

As a little girl, Easter was always my favorite holiday.  I enjoyed Christmas, but Easter always made my heart just jump for joy.  I loved picking out the perfect Easter dress, bonnet, shoes, and those oh so adorable white gloves.  I still love gloves today. There is just something so genteel about little white gloves.  Growing up down South, we had egg hunts outside and sunrise services where we didn’t freeze to death.  When Easter morning arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement.  The items in my basket were always good, but for me the pure joy came when we stepped through the doors of our white church.  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Those hope-filled phrases were used in place of hello, and they echoed from every corner of the sanctuary.Lil' Sprout Memories   Christmas is wonderful, but it if you want to see joyful Christians come to church early on Easter morning.  I like contemporary Christian music, but I was raised on good old Southern gospel hymns. Each Easter, joy and hope exuded from every pore as we sang “Because He Lives” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.  Even today, I still get goose bumps when I hear the organ roll leading into the chorus of “Up from the Grave He Arose”.

Easter is the definition of HOPE. Maybe not according to Webster’s, but it really should be.  Recently, I have been grappling with the reality of Easter.  For any believer who has lost someone, the significance of Easter is a clinging hope. The only hope that makes sense. It is the promise that through Christ’s sacrifice, we will see those loved ones again.  His incredible gift to humanity has made that possible.  When I was a little girl singing with her church family, I would often get choked up on Easter morning.  The chocolate bunnies and Peeps were nice, but even then I realized that someone gave his life for me.  Lately, my conflict has been are we recognizing what Jesus really did? He didn’t just give up extra cream in his latte or get bumped off a flight.  He gave his life in a cruel, brutal and foretold way so that we could know the lavish depth of His Father’s love. If you have ever felt unloved, this is why you shouldn’t.  He loved you enough to go through with the most horrific of deaths.  If you ever feel left out or rejected, please know that he chose me (and you and everyone else) – loved me enough to lay down his life.  But even more significantly, he would have done it even if I was the only one who needed to be saved, and that alone fills my heart with hope.

Family Cooking: Easter Bread Nest

oneperfectbite.blogspot.com

oneperfectbite.blogspot.com

This has been a gift for several years from our friend, Karla Adams.  She is an amazing cook, seamstress, volunteer, and friend.  Actually, I don’t know much she isn’t good at. Kandy’s kiddos have always loved when the Easter “knock” comes and there she is with the gift of this bread.  It always looks beautiful on our Easter table.  Delicious, fun, and something the whole family will love.

Ingredients:

2 Frozen loaves bread

5 raw eggs

Food coloring

Powdered sugar frosting

Dye eggs with food coloring. Add food coloring to 1/2 c water. Dye as desired. DO NOT boil eggs first.

 

When bread is thawed and just starting to rise,  make into ropes of dough. You will have 2 long ropes. Take the ropes and twist them together. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Shape into a circle and pinch the end together to form this circle. Place the dyed eggs into the braided gaps. This will look funny at first. But as the bread rises it will look more like a nest.

Spray dough with cooking spray. Try not to spray eggs. Place a flour sack towel over it. When bread has doubled in size, bake @ 350 for 25– 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely. Drizzle with powdered sugar frosting. Leave it white or color it. Sprinkle with Easter colored M&M’s or robin egg candies.

NOTE: Before making the ropes I like to roll out each loaf of bread and add some butter and sugar with cinnamon. This gives it a little extra look and taste.

February Challenges: The February newsletter’s theme was love.  We encouraged our readers to Did you love your neighbors? Did you encourage a young person last month?  If so we would love to hear from you. 

The best laid plans . . . well, we didn’t get the neighborhood soup night accomplished.   The mission/tagline of this ministry ~ Real women ~ Real lives ~ Sweet Grace isn’t just something we say, but it is how we really operate on a daily basis.  We want to be genuine and real, even when we come up short on goals.  Instead of soup night, we cleared snow off of driveways following a recent snow storm.  Our neighbors who were out of town returned home to clean driveways and were able to just relax.  I did accomplish the writing of letters for challenge #2.  I chose six teenagers to write letters of encouragement and told how proud I was of them.  Most importantly, I told them how I was glad they were in my children’s lives.  After I had mailed them, I told my kiddos that I had done it, in case any of the recipients said anything to them.  A few did, and I received a call from one mom.  The best was the one who caught my eye (didn’t say anything), but made sure I noticed her after the school band concert.  It felt really good to do it.   So much so, that I think it is going to become a habit.

fay-prairieMaking hope a habit is the lesson from our guest writer this month.  Our friend, Fay Prairie has blessed us with a great piece on choosing hope.  Fay is a speaker, writer, counselor, wife, mom, and friend.  You can learn more about her at her website http://www.fayprairie.com/ I have enjoyed getting to know her, and she has been a huge encouragement to me as I have decided to follow God’s leading in forming all of this.

Hope Can Advance Your Life

Life is full of uncertainties, disappointments, and moments of despair. However, even when times get difficult and intimidating, as long as we keep hope alive, we can continue to move forward with confidence.

When you have hope, you believe and have faith that things will get better and you will persevere. Hope is a powerful attitude which opens doors where despair slams them shut.

The Webster definition of hope is the “feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best” or the “feeling that something desired may happen.”

How does hope help us in our life?

1. Hope helps us to feel stronger. When we truly believe things will get better, we are willing to do whatever it takes. With hope we can look to the future with confidence and excitement, and we can begin to do more than we ever imagined.

2. Hope helps us focus on the positive. Whatever we focus on grows. When we maintain our focus on the positives in our life, more positive things come into our life. Hope allows us to look forward to all the wonderful things in life.

3. Hope helps us envision possibilities and solutions There will always be difficulties, but hope helps us to visualize good outcomes. It allows us to expect good things to happen.

4. Hope gives us the desire to learn and grow. Hope helps us regain interest and get involved more fully in life. By growing as a person we will make improvements that lead to greater life-satisfaction and well-being.

5. Hope helps us to take an empowered view toward life. A hopeful attitude helps us see the best, work for the best, and, ultimately, experience the best in life. Hope increases our joy, courage and level of success in life.

No matter what you face in life, always think hopefully, speak hopefully, work hopefully, and act hopefully. Do all you can to make hope a daily habit. Remind yourself that regardless of what happens in your life, you always have the option to choose hope.

Family Traditions

For the last few years, Kandy’s and Brenda’s families have gotten together to dye Easter eggs.  We all look forward to it.  Last year, I think we dyed eight dozen eggs.  We decided the four dozen from the year before just wasn’t enough. Everyone gets involved.  There is a lot of creativity – including planning for the next time we do this. Conversations of I saw this cool idea in Martha Stewart magazine or on Pinterest come up more than once. We dream, we plan, but mostly we laugh.  I don’t think anything tops the laughter from the year we created a mural with the left over dye.  After admiring everyone’s creations, we lamented about how the dye was just going to go to waste.  As a teacher, I am always up for a new experiment.  With a twinkle in my eye, I ran downstairs and grabbed an old white sheet that was destined to become a plant protector when the fall frosts threatened my garden.  We took those coffee cups filled with dye and splatter painted that sheet.  It was amazing.  It was so much fun that it lands up there with catching fireflies, playing in the sprinkler, and running to meet the ice cream truck for this Southern girl.  Of course, the most laughter came after the sheet dried and we noticed the now Easter dyed lawn.  Oh well, a little collateral damage was worth the fun we had.

We would love to hear of your families Easter traditions. Please respond to this post with what Easter traditions you and your family hold dear.  

 Family Easter Garden 

We decided to see repeat a blog from last year because it was such a wonderful activity that our whole family enjoyed. Our littlest one took pride each day in spritzing the garden with water.  As the garden grew, she delighted in trimming the lawn with scissors.

https://kandynolesstevens.com/2012/04/02/easter-countdown-part-1-johnathan-has-a-starring-role/

March Encouragement

Spend a few minutes each day in the next week, praying and asking God to bring to mind one – just one – person that you can bring hope.  Often in life, it is the small things that bring the most hope.  Once you know who that person is do one small thing for them – write a note, send flowers, drop by for a visit, make a call, make a meal, do a chore. Just do something, and leave a message of hope.  If you feel comfortable, you can tell the recipient you were the hope-filled giver.  We would love to hear what you decide to do.

Ministry Update

We are proud to announce that we have partnered with 5j Design LLC to design our logo and website  to help us basically help ourselves (when we are way over our heads technically speaking).  They are assisting us in developing a better way to reach others with the message of God’s grace and love. In the coming months, we should have a new website with a more streamlined method of communicating with our friends and churches.  The story of how we found Jake and Zach is an amazing God story, but just know He is looking out for us.  Based on guidance from our friends at 5J Design, we have made one small change in our ministry.  Watch for the unveiling of that change in the coming days.

We wait with hope for spring filled days where we can sit on the deck, sipping sweet tea and chatting.  Until then, we would love to chat with you.

Kandy & Brenda

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you  with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you  may abound in hope. (NIV)


											
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