Wednesday, November 30, 2016


 Henry and Harriett knew that their Christmas dinner this year would be like all the others, catered!  In fact, neither one of them could recall their mother, Hazel, ever cooking a real Christmas dinner.  For years, all dinners had been brought in and it looked like nothing but catered, for the future.  This year Harriett and Henry decided to go on a “catered food strike.”  Yes, rebellion was in the air!  They wanted a real home cooked meal and that was that!

The children spoke to their father, Harold about getting a real home cooked meal for Christmas.  Harold shoke his head, knowing his wife never cooked anything bigger than bacon and eggs or a quick mix pizza.  Hazel hated cooking and made sure everyone knew it.  Harold tried to explain this to the children but finally advised them to ask their mother.  Maybe, just maybe, she would relent, he thought.

Henry and Harriett thought over their father’s advice.  After thinking the situation through, the children decided that rather than face their mother’s wrath, they would endure another brought-in meal.

Christmas day arrived.  At noon the caterers arrived.  Their mother, Hazel, sat at the head of the dinner table ready to be served while the children and their father sat on either side of the table, attentive to her needs.  The children nibbled some of the food laid out before them.  A huge cooked turkey sat in the middle of the table. It was about  20 pounds, the children guessed.  Dressing, cranberries and desert surrounded the huge turkey.  Soon, the children lost all interest in the dinner and left to watch TV.

In the afternoon, Hazel wanted to go to the Mall to see if any stores might be open so she could exchange some gifts she received.  She often didn’t like what people got her for Christmas.  Harold packed his family into their brand new station wagon and all were on their way.  He used a short cut, going down some side streets.  Henry and Harriett looked through the car windows and realized their father was driving through a bad part of town.  They became frightened and nervous.  What would happen to them if the car broke down?

“Hurry up, father!  Drive faster!” they both cried.

“What are we doing in this part of town anyway?”  Hazel asked.  “You know that this is a dangerous area, don’t you, Harold?” 

“Yes, I do, he answered.  ‘I wanted all of you to see something before we go to the Mall.”

Slowly Harold pulled into a gravel driveway and stopped.  In front of them was an old, one story brick building, all run down.

“I want the children to come with me,” he said getting out of the car.” Where are we going, father?”  Harriett was a bit anxious.  This was something the family had never done before.

“We are going to take the remains of our Christmas dinner to the people who live in this shelter.  Every year your mother orders more than we can eat and every year I bring what’s left here for these people to enjoy.  This year I thought maybe you’d like to help me.”
    
Hazel sat in the car listening to her husband with an astonished look on her face. She thought out loud, “So that’s where the leftovers go!”

“That’s right, Hazel.  OK kids, let’s go!”


As the children followed their father into the shelter, they saw many people waiting for them.  Never before had the children seen people who had so little to eat.  The people looked tired, poor and hungry.  All of their lives Harriett and Henry had everything they wanted.  Today their father brought them face to face with an entirely different world.  For the first time in their lives, they learned what Christmas and sharing was all about.  For them, Christmas would never be the same.  They would never forget the smiles and joy of the people in the shelter.  Harriett and Henry finally had a wonderful Christmas and so did the people of the shelter!

Post script: Christmas is a wonderful and joyous time of year but when material things become more important, as in the story above, then it loses the real meaning of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas for all Christians is that Christ was born to save sinners. Without Christ, there would indeed be no Christmas. 
Merry Christmas to everyone!



Copyright 2016 Toni Star 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Preamble to the below post on Grandma, me and Thanksgiving

This is a poem I wrote about my grandma years ago. The words and feelings about grandma still reign in my heart:

What is it about Grandma that I cannot forget?
I'm over 50 and much wiser now.
You'd think life would diminish the sweet, sad memories,
And yet, I can't forget.

I still remember the night we sang "Silent Night" together.
She was fifty-five, gray and I was seven.
It was such a peaceful night and snow began to fall.
We were so happy then. Where did the time go?

Grandma is gone now but her love remains within me.
She cared so much, gave so much; her talents were always present.
Memories of dinners flash by, the smell of pies baking.
And always her love of life shining, no matter how good or bad things were.

Life without Grandma is hard; she taught me so much.
She taught me how to cut hair, cook and bake delicious food.
Proper manners and dialogue, too.
In my mind she left a legacy of life and goodness.

That is why I cannot forget Grandma.

Originally published in 1980

Copyright Toni Star 2016

Grandma, me and Thanksgiving: 1950s

November, then and now, signals just one thing to me, Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.  Thanksgiving at her house was paradise!  The atmosphere of food, laughter and love was wonderful and unforgettable. 

Thanksgiving morning at our house was busy.  Mom would prepare a salad or pie; we kids would dress up in our good clothes and then go outside to play. We had to be careful not to get dirty.  Good clothes in our family didn’t come easy.  We weren’t poor but we were very frugal with money and food.  Meanwhile, Dad stayed busy in the garage checking out the old Chevy.  He’d check the oil, water and the battery and then give the tires a kick, for readiness. 

Often, I would go into the garage from time to time to see how he was doing.  Often, he found things for me to do-such as checking the oil and water and inspecting the car battery to see if was clean and water filled to the proper level. I always felt important helping Dad, especially on holidays, when there was much to do. 

Later, around 12 we all piled into the Chevy, eager for Thanksgiving dinner. We would arrive at Grandma’s, all dressed up, gifts in hand, with offerings of a waldorf salad and pie. As we walked through her door the aroma of turkey and onions would fill our senses with the joy of delicious food to come.  That first whiff of turkey and steamed vegetables was delicious!  We walked through the house into her kitchen and put our donations of food and small gifts, (often a bottle of Rum) onto the kitchen table, kiss Grandma and then go into the living room where we would sit and talk.  Later, Mom and I would return to the kitchen and help Grandma with the meal. 

It was my job to help Grandma prepare the dressing, with ingredients of butter, celery, bread, milk, and onion, then help with the progress of the turkey.  Mom would put her donations of food into the already crammed refrigerator and then prepare green beans or another salad for dinner. Inside the oven the turkey was roasting, and occasionally Grandma would let me use her large ladling spoon to baste the turkey.    Later, Grandma and I would finish preparing a pie—often apple or cherry.  I would round out the crust while she prepared the filling.  After that was done, we’d check on the vegetables and then I would set the table.   

I loved that job because she had beautiful crystal and China, with delicate pink and blue patterns on the dishes and matching pink crystal for glasses. She also had beautiful silverware that was kept in a special drawer in the living room.  I would carefully remove the dinnerware from the old ornate cabinet in the dining room and tenderly place each piece in the proper setting.  I loved how it all sparkled on the table.

The meal of Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes; real green beans, cranberries and pie filled us up till we could eat no more.  We would all sit at the large table, enjoy her traditional Thanksgiving meal and talk about the latest “Uncle Millie” or “Jackie Gleason” shows.  We all loved those shows and each of us tried to “out do” each other, with our imitations of “Uncle Miltie” or “Jackie Gleason.” 

The adults would later have wine or brandy and we kids would go out and play in the small backyard.  Sometimes I would deliver food Grandma prepared for an old lady across the street.  The old lady lived alone and was often too ill to prepare food for herself.  I loved doing this for Grandma, and the old lady was always happy to receive it. I took pride running this errand because I helped Grandma prepare much of the meal.

Today, I continue Grandma’s Thanksgiving meal.  I prepare many of the same kind of foods she prepared ---homemade turkey dressing, several salads and pie.  Many in my family can’t attend because they live too far away.  But, those who do enjoy a Thanksgiving meal of the 50’s.  You see, Grandma’s gone, but her traditions live on in a woman from the 50’s.


Friday, September 30, 2016

If you are suffering from insomnia, here are some tips

If you are suffering from insomnia, and many people do from time to time, there are some tips I can share with you that may help such as going to bed and getting up at the same time. Keep in mind; your body is a marvelous machine that was created by God and God is a very punctual and organized being. Because that is so, He knows that our bodies need sleep and one of the best ways to do this is to keep a good sleeping routine.

Also, keep your bedroom dark, cool and comfortable. Sleep goes better when there are no lights, no distractions and the temperature is cool and comfortable. In addition, leave your worries and problems out of the bedroom. If something is bothering you, take it to the good Lord, write it down on paper and then go to bed. And, if you find that you can't sleep, get up and read, listen to some soothing music or watch something boring on TV. Stay with that activity until you are tired, then go to bed.

It also helps to either read or listen to calming music before going to bed. Physical activity should end at least three to four hours before going to bed. Exercise during the day; however, can prepare you for a good night's sleep. Walking or bicycling, for at least a half hour to an hour each day, are exercises that calm the mind and body down.

In addition, sleep medication, under the guidance of your doctor, can also help. Non-prescription sleep aids can also help, something like Melatonin. However, sleep medication should only be taken under the guidance of your doctor and only used as a temporary measure to treat insomnia.

One other method that is longer-lasting and effective in treating insomnia is behavior-modification therapy. Behavior-modification therapy is helpful because it works to change the behavior or behaviors that are keeping you awake at night. For instance, if you are watching too much TV at night, especially shows that are violent, loud and disturbing, they could be causing insomnia. Or, if you are exercising an hour before bed, that, too can keep you awake.

Food that is high in fat and salt can also keep you awake. Foods like spaghetti, steak or casseroles that are heavy in fat and calories, food that is eaten several hours before going to bed, can keep you from sleeping. Or, if you lie in bed thinking about all the negative things of the day or worrying about what might go wrong the following day, all of these negative actions can keep you awake.

To change your behavior, first find out what is keeping you awake--food, exercise, worries or too much TV. Once you zero in on what is keeping you from sleeping, then you can begin to work on correcting those issues. If worries about sleeping or anything else is keeping your eyes open, try telling a short story to yourself, where you make  a clear decision in your thinking to solve the problem. In other words, try repeating in your mind something repetitive every night, where you provide an answer that leads to sleep. For example, set up a brief story such as making a decision about how and where you will sleep at night. Create a simple and clear dialogue with another person about where you prefer to sleep. Give a standard answer in your mind and as you drift off to sleep, see in your mind where you will be sleeping. It is a comforting thought because every night you make similar decisions and before you know it, you are sleeping because the thought is repetitive, relaxing and comforting. Try it and see what you think!

Try one or more of the above tips and get a good night's sleep! Remember, God wants you to sleep and be healthy and He is always there when you need Him. Because He is the Creator, He will never leave you nor forsake you!

Copyright Toni Star 2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

When you are suffering, follow Christ's example!

Rick Warren posted a wonderful article that I would like to share with you. It concerned pain and suffering and how to handle it. He began his article with a quote from the Bible:
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21 NIV)

Rick Warren stated that everyone faces a tragedy at some point in his or her life. Not one of us can escape tragedy. Certainly, Jesus did not escape tragedy. However, Jesus did give us  fine example on handling pain with His death. He gave us a model of what we should do during the worst day of our lives. Look at 1 Peter 2:21: "To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." (NIV)

Rick goes on to share that several years ago before Easter, his youngest son took his life. And, it was the worst day of his life. However, he looked to the model of Jesus. The answer that came to him was Easter.

Let's look at what Jesus did during the worst day of his life on earth. First, he reached out to friends. The night that Jesus knew he was going to be arrested and executed, he gathered with his friends. All he wanted was to be with them. God didn't want his son to go through pain on his own. Being with a body of believers is what we need when something awful happens. 

Then, Jesus reached out to God through prayer. In times of trouble you need friends but you need God much more. When no one else will be with you, God will be there right by your side. Remember Jesus prayed to his father in the Garden of Gethsemane. When you pray, say something like "Lord, you can do anything because you are Lord." Then, say, "I can't go through this pain. It is too much." After that, surrender to his will. In other words, "Don't do what you want to do but what God wants for you."

Remember, you and I were not meant to go through suffering alone. When times get tough, reach out and up--because He will be waiting for you.

One other note, when I felt so alone and frightened with physical pain I had--and sometimes still have--I used to feel frightened and alone. It wasn't until my husband told me, "Honey, you are never alone; I am with you but more than anything, Jesus and God are with you." After hearing those words, I got busy praying and reading the Bible. There are three other steps I have taken that have also helped
and they are: (1) I acknowledge each day that I love the Lord with all my heart, body, soul and strength and mind, (2) love my neighbor as myself, (3) try to do what is right according to God's will and then once I do something, I leave it be and move on." After all, like all Christians, I have to be about my Father's business!

Copyright Toni Star 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Instead of fighting back from an attack, rest!

I read Rick Warren's article titled, "When you're under attack, just rest." In the last year, I have read many of his articles but I found this one particularly interesting. When he writes, "The world is getting ruder," I totally get that. When waiting in line and someone pushes through or when someone gives a rude reply like, "Who cares or who are you," I am tempted to fight back with a similar comment.

When people are rude or unkind is shows how small their hearts are. Small people belittle people, while great people make people feel great. Like many, I find it hard dealing with rude people. Rick Warren says don't handle people at all. He says, "Let God handle them." This is good and true because God, indeed, is our defender.

It is true that it takes a lot of faith and humility to trust God when you are under attack, when people spread rumors about your or when you are misunderstood. Often, I want to rise up and do something about it. But, you know what? You and I don't have to do anything. You can I can be like Jesus. He remained silent when he was attacked, even on his way to the cross. He stayed silent before those who accused him because he trusted in his father, God.

Now, that doesn't mean we have to be wimps; Jesus wasn't a wimp. There were times when he showed his anger, like the time he turned the tables of the money changers. The difference there was he saw that the money changers were using the house of God for profit and not for worship and prayer; whereas when he was under attack, he entrusted his feelings to his Father.

These words from 1 Peter 4:19 can help a great deal: "So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to God who created you, for he will never fail you."

What wonderful and comforting words! We all are attacked from time to time and as Christians, we can expect it to happen but our God will never fail us!

Blessings to all,

Toni

Sunday, July 3, 2016

God will give you the power to keep going!

Not long ago, I read an article that Rick Warren wrote about the importance of "keep going." From (Philipppians 1:6a NLT) comes: "God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished."

When I thought about those words, it gave me comfort because sometimes I feel like I can't go on, I just feel tired and weary. Maybe you, too, have felt this way. When you reread those words you see that it doesn't say that God may finish the good work within you, it says that God will finish the good work within you.

What this means to you and me is that once you have surrendered yourself to Christ and have made Him number one in your life, you will be going to Heaven. The only question is how you complete your life? Some will do well during the course of their lives, while others will barely make it. To finish the race of life in a good way, you need God's sustaining grace.

As Rick Warren put it, "Sustaining grace is the power to keep on going when you feel like giving up. It is the power to do the right thing when you don't feel like doing the right thing." Think back on the times when you didn't feel like doing the right thing; like helping a person who has often been rude and unkind or when you feel physically and mentally down and someone wants you to listen to them. It's not easy, is it?

So when you just don't feel like going on--going to that meeting or helping a neighbor who is needy--know that when you are a child of Christ and have made Him number one in your life, you can go that meeting, you can make that pie for your neighbor--you can do all things through Christ. He will give you His sustaining grace!

Start each day by thanking God for the day, ask Him for his guidance and ask Him to "go before you in all you do." Make each day a good day with the good Lord!

Copyright Toni Star 2016