Christmas Gift Giving

Ken & Kathi's Pella, IA tree

Ken & Kathi’s tree in Pella, Iowa

Note: This is a guest post written last year by my son, Ken Gross. Any feedback, I will forward on to him. 1-IMG_0273 

Christmas 2014 Thoughts

The spirit of Christmas has been spoken of often, but do we consider what that means?  I was thinking of the tradition of gift giving and was inspired to write these thoughts down after reading someone else’s musings on Christmas.

I believe the heart of Christmas is in gift giving.  I believe the essence of Christmas can be summarized in one simple thought.  A gift was given so that what was once impossible, is now possible.

We all have been given many gifts beginning with life itself.  Beyond that we have gifts that are wrapped up in who we are.  We call some of these gifts by other words such as talent or ability.  I think of creativity in the different arts as a gift.  The ability to be a wordsmith and craft a phrase, just so.  The ability to take a picture, capturing light in a way that provokes thought or emotion.  Sometimes we are given gifts that are in disguise and harder to see such as compassion for our fellow human beings.

We make decisions every day about gift giving.  It may only come to the surface at Christmas time, but it is there in the background all year long.  We make decisions about what we keep for ourselves and what we will give away.  I believe we are all called to gift giving.

We have a responsibility to unwrap the gifts within ourselves and to give them away, but gift giving comes at a cost.  It takes it’s toll on us mentally and emotionally.  Sometimes a gift of great cost is rejected.  Sometimes a gift given is misused.  Gift giving is a risky thing, risky if we focus on ourselves and not the receiver.  A gift given in the spirit of Christmas does not consider the risks or what the giver looses.

Will you chose this Christmas to give from the gifts that you were given?  Will you unwrap the talents hidden inside you and take a risk?  Will you endure the cost of gift giving, such as rejection and miss-use.  We face decisions, small and great throughout the year that hinge on that simple Christmas thought, will you give a gift that in someone else’s life, will make what was once impossible, possible.

Colossians says that we who were once enemies of God can now be called friends through the gift of God, Jesus Christ.

You have the power of a gift.”  ~~Ken Gross; Williams, Arizona

Thank you for reading. Visit Effie Alean Groves Gross on Facebook or at

Posted in Christmas, Gift Giving, Iowa, Memories, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Tiny Houses

Tiny Houses are BIG! They can be under 300 square feet or a little larger and sell for $15,000 and up. This relatively new trend appeals to young and old alike. Just check marketing ads, even Craig’s List and you’ll find a variety of styles and accommodations. Tiny House Nation TV Show is exposing the charm and challenge of living small.

Residing in the Scottsdale area and selling real estate where houses are often 4,000 square feet or more, I can’t quite understand the appeal of tiny houses.  Nevertheless, the concept brings back memories of my childhood. My very first favorite book was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. She wrote of four orphaned children who created a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar. Their living space was approximately 40 feet by 8 feet, or 320 square feet…hmmm. So, tiny houses are not such a new idea.

Like the novel’s characters, today’s owners of small quarters need to be independent, tidy, organized, creative, hard workers, and amicable. Ranging in age from 14 to 6 years, the four boxcar children possessed all of those qualities.

“Spoiler Alert.” The children’s grandfather offered a $5,000 reward in the 1942 edition to locate his lost grandchildren. After they were found and moved in with him, the boxcar (tiny house) was moved to his backyard for the children’s enjoyment.

Unfortunately, not all thoughts of boxcars bring back pleasant memories. Hobos and the homeless certainly have a different perspective. Holocaust survivors ache with painful memories of being herded inside where inhumane conditions took their neighbors and relatives to death chambers.

So, what is your first thought when you hear the term, “Tiny Houses” or watch a television show tempting you? Would you make a boxcar your home? Why or Why Not?

Thank you for reading. Please visit my website: http://www.FountainHillsWelcomeHome and visit the virtual tour of my latest home listing at MCO Realty listing at $927,500 with five bedrooms and seven bathrooms…NOT A TINY HOUSE!



Posted in Childhood, Children's Books, family, Jewish, Memories, novels, Real Estate, Tiny Houses, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Door or Doormat?

Source: Door or Doormat?

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Door or Doormat?

I think doors are important. They allow us to enter or exit. We expect to be welcomed or shunned. The door is either open or shut. At my house, on cooler days, we leave doors open for a fresh mountain breeze to waft through the house. Our neighbors recognize the open welcome. They approach, the dog barks, like a doorbell, signaling approaching visitors. I ask them in…landscapers, kids, Fed-X delivery personnel. They may not all come in, but they are invited.

An open open heart.

An open door…an open heart.

As a kid, my Grandma and Grandpa Smith had a picture of Jesus standing at the door and knocking. That was before doorbells. Even at eight or nine, I thought it was not nice to let Someone stand there on the outside. That picture disturbed me.

I love doors that have “Welcome” mats. When I ring the doorbell or tap the brass knocker, I don’t feel as though I’m intruding. Being a doormat isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. Allowing someone to wipe their dirty feet on you (figuratively speaking) can help them come into the house with no traces of mud or grime, clean. Sometimes people need help. Other people just like to be a listening ear or a give a helping hand. Neither are weak, only human.

Being a door or a doormat comes with caution. Not everyone is scrupulous; some may take advantage. Be open and welcoming, but wise. Just like the picture of Jesus. He doesn’t remain standing outside when we let him into our lives. I’m glad that I opened the door of my heart and let Him in as a young girl. Now I know, “My Father has a big, big house!” Someday, when my work on earth is done, the welcome mat will be clean, the door will open wide, and He will say, “Welcome, Home!”

How about you? Do you have a door or door mat story? I’d love to hear from you.

All the best, ~~Effie

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A Dime A Dozen

Simple math tells us that at the rate of a dime a dozen, one (of anything)  is equivalent to a value of $0.0083.  Cheap!

So, what can we buy at a rate like that? You can’t even get penny candy anymore. Shocking, huh? Time to visit Goodwill or go dumpster diving. Everything is expensive these days. Guess I’ll drift off to visit my memories…they’re still free.

My first brand new three-bedroom house in Des Moines, Iowa cost $12,000, including upgrades of a cedar shake roof and plush red bedroom carpeting.

When I dro8203 Leisure Laneeve by the house on Leisure Lane (actual street name) in May of this year, I saw changes. It had a fence that wasn’t there back in 1966, the elm tree was mature and the lot had shrunk. I wish I had a dime for the dozens of times I remember those days in that house.

A black-and-white family photo was taken there: Mom, Dad, my three brothers and one sister with me. I had a lace tablecloth on the dining room table and a tiny table with two fold-down leaves in the kitchen. My daughter helped her younger brother escape the crib, and my son later learned to ride the tricycle in cowboy boots on the front sidewalk. Memories.

My late husband, Roland, received Jesus as his Savior in that house. I rededicated my life to the Lord there. We sold all of our earthly possessions and the house we loved to move our two pre-school children to Greenville, SC. There, Roland and I attended Bob Jones University. We had left Leisure Lane for good.

At my age (which I refuse to reveal), almost any topic at any given moment can generate a memory. They’re a dime a dozen…worth a million!

What is it that triggers your fondest memories? Bubble gum, marbles, losing the first tooth, lightning bugs, snow, the smell of apple pie, the touch of corduroy, the taste of lemonade, or making mud pies? I’d love to hear about your memories…a house, maybe?

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to visit

Posted in Childhood, God, Houses, Iowa, Life Chages, Memories, Moving, Prices, Real Estate, Travel, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Keeping Up Appearances

Several years ago, my son Kendahl introduced me to what is now one of my favorite television shows. The British sitcom, Keeping Up Appearances, was written by Roy Clarke and ran from 1990 – 1995. However, today, the programs are repeated worldwide on PBS and entire series are sold on Ebay and Amazon.

In trying to analyze why I’m so drawn to this silliness, I look at the characters and their behaviors. Patricia Routledge is cast as Hyacinth Bucket, insisting that her name is pronounced “bouquet.” Her two sisters are Rose and Daisy, so maybe she would have valid claim, except for Hyacinth’s consistent snobbish ways.

She is an eccentric middle-class social climber. Hyacinth is married to Richard who patiently endures her escapades. She brags about her candlelight suppers and tries to impress everyone by flaunting her material possessions, like her “Royal Doulton china.” All the while, Hyacinth says, “I don’t have a snobbish bone in my body.”

Her superiority in climbing the social ladder to the upper class is usually dashed by the reality of her lower-class extended family. Rose is a “loose” woman; Daisy is a complacent dreamer, married to a likeable, but poor slob, Onslow.

Maybe I like Keeping Up Appearances because I see my prideful self in this program. It’s much more acceptable to see a similar behavior in another and then laugh about it.

Once I was too proud to go to an event with a small run in my panty hose. I ended up buying a new pair at the drug store and getting into the back seat of my Honda to change. Soon, I discovered that the child safety locks were on. I was trapped. I twisted and turned and forced my body into a tiny crawl space between bucket seats to eventually plop into the driver’s seat. Someone must have recognized me in the Walgreen’s parking lot, “On the corner of Healthy and Happy.” I live in a small town.

Silly, the situations we get ourselves into. All due to pride. “Pride goeth before destruction” (Proverbs 16:18). It happened to the brightest angel in heaven: Lucifer.

How can you look and laugh at your own silliness when it comes to pride? Are you struggling with “Keeping Up Appearances” in an area of your life? Sometimes it’s just not funny. I know. Tell me your story.


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Posted in 1990s television, Appearances, British television, Hyacinth Bucket, materialism, Sitcoms, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Persons of Influence

Back when I was a teenager living in Iowa, I read Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends & Influence People. It was first published in 1937. Today, I know that I needed that book, since I was so shy and quiet. (Those who know me now can stop laughing!)

I feel as though I have a lot of friends, but as far as influencing anyone, I guess I’ll never know this side of heaven. However, countless persons have influenced me. Most for the good, I’m happy to report.

So, my next writing project is developing in my mind. Write letters to the major men, women, and children in my life who have influenced me in one way or another. Some of the letters I plan to write will be to those who have departed for a far better place, but never forgotten.

Revival Meeting with Grandpa and Grandma Smith on their property.

Revival Meeting with Grandpa and Grandma Smith on their property.

The task before me is so massive. I don’t know where to begin, but I do know that I will include my late husband, both of my parents, all of my grandparents, my sister and three brothers, my three children, my grandchildren and my in-laws. There will be teachers, pastors, neighbors, friends, students, and a few strangers. If this collection of  epistles is ever published, that would be one of the most influential things I’ve ever done. It doesn’t matter to me if any more of my work is published, except for the fact that if it be for the glory of my Lord, so be it.

Who has influenced me the most? Jesus! Maybe someday I’ll write about what my life, if I would even still be alive today,  would be like without Him. That will be a very dark story…yet, the story of a life redeemed.

If you could write one paragraph about one person that has influenced you, what would you write? Can you share that paragraph now? Will you encourage me in my letter writing project?

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Posted in family, Family History, friends, God, Iowa, Judeo-Christian, Life Chages, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments