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  • Maggie Wallem Rowe

Joy to YOUR World! and the time Grandpa took care of the kids

[Last call! If you wish to have my sidekick Miss Maggie sign, gift-wrap, and ship some sweet southern humor, recipes, and life-lessons to your besties in time for Christmas, please hit Reply no later than Dec. 16!! $15 includes the hardcover book, tax, and shipping.]

Know what I’ve got simmerin’ on my stove right now? During the month of December, I keep a pot of water on a back burner filled with cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, whole cloves, and orange peels. The spicy fragrance fills our home evoking memories of past celebrations and scenting new ones.

This week I’m excited to show you a potpourri of little things that are bringing joy to my world — and scroll to the end for a photo of Mike and the grands that makes me laugh every time!

In the Comments section below, I hope you’ll share your joy-bringers. I’m tickled that many of you not only read these weekly reflections but tell me you enjoy the comments as well.

Shared joys are doubled joys.

For instance, last week we discussed a topic that can cause tension – how to live expectantly without having expectations – yet what many of you commented on was the brief clip of baby Jane, now 16 months, trying repeatedly to stand. Your enthusiasm for her determination blessed me beyond measure.

When I was a child in the 1950’s, I was mesmerized by the bubble lights my parents draped on our Christmas tree. Simple pleasures cause laughter and joy to bubble up within like those old vintage lights, don’t they?

Our tree with 1950's-era bubble lights. Mike's eldest sister Jeannine crocheted the ornament decades ago.

For nearly thirty years, I’ve traveled to serve at multiple outreach events during the first two weeks of December. This year I’ve been home, and I’ve used the extra time to immerse myself in three new Advent books gifted by my publisher, an author-friend, and my sister-in-law. With my cat Trixie in my lap, I’ve had time to read and ponder the miracle of Emmanuel - God with us.

New Advent devotionals I'm enjoying this month by Ruth Chou Simons, Karen Porter, and Chris Tiegreen.
“God with us. Not against us. Not monitoring our lives to see how far we step out of line and how harshly he will have to discipline us this time. Not watching us from a distance, longing to help if only his hands weren’t tied by his own physical laws. And certainly not away on a journey like a watchmaker who set things in motion and left the scene.
“No, in Jesus, God promised to be with us, and Jesus made it permanent when he sent his spirit and embedded a promise of presence into the great commission.” – Chris Tiegreen, The Wonder of Advent

And look at the magnificent Promise of Presence we spotted from our front deck just a few days ago when it wasn’t even raining!

A rainbow over the valley - a sign of God's eternal presence and His covenant with His people.

If you could use a delicious starter for a holiday meal or party, try this recipe for Almond Pinecones that my friend Becky gave me over 40 years ago. Seriously, it is SO EASY and everyone loves it. I took it to a Christmas party at church last weekend and it was such a hit. Just make sure to supply a spreader and plenty of crackers!

Directions: Combine softened cream cheese and mayonnaise; mix well. Add crumbled bacon, onion, dill, and pepper; mix well. Cover and chill for at least six hours or overnight. Form cheese mixture into shape of two pinecones on a large plate or wooden serving platter. Beginning at the narrow end, press almonds (I use a 6 oz. can of Blue Diamond smoked), at slight angle into cheese mixture in rows. Continue overlapping rows until all cheese is covered. Garnish with pine springs and tiny cones. Serve with crackers.

Short on family this Christmas? Adopt some! Two women have become my “second moms” since my own mother passed away at Christmas three years ago. Elaine in Minnesota, 97, posts an uplifting comment on this site every week, while Jerri, 94, sends encouraging notes from Florida like the one below. Such a gift that I put it on my tree!

I have never met either Elaine or Jerri in person, but these women of Mom’s generation have enriched my life. Is there someone you can adopt this Christmas?

And as crazy as it sounds, sometimes we experience joy even in the midst of our greatest sorrows.

When we returned from Norway this past May, my new friend “Penny” was well enough at the time to come to NC to visit. I’ve written about her in the past. Part of our online community, Penny has battled Covid three times as well as debilitating cancer and numerous other medical challenges.

Penny was widowed three years ago this month, and she carries the ashes of her husband, “Tom,” in a beautiful pendant around her neck. One afternoon during her visit, Penny removed the pendant to show it to me when suddenly the clasp came loose, spilling ashes onto the wooden floor of our living room.

Horrified, Penny and I scrambled to scoop the ashes up only to see them settle into the cracks between the floorboards. We stared at each other in dismay, and then Penny shook her head and said, “Well, now Tom’s got a place here in the mountains too. He’ll always be with you!” And we laughed until tears streamed down our cheeks.

Friends, you bring joy into my life. Thank you!

Later, referencing what happened, Penny sent me this card. What a reminder of the beauty that can come from ashes.

And as for scattering joy, that's exactly what our half-dozen little imps do (along with scattering everything else.)

Below is the photo I promised of Mike keeping the grandchildren well under control when they were all with us this summer!

What’s bringing joy into YOUR world this month? Please share with us!

Grandpa knows how to keep the crew calm - NOT.


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