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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Word of the Year

The past few years I've jumped on the bandwagon and chosen one word to move into the new year with. I don't choose this word lightly, as I try my best to live it out in every area of my life. That's a tall order for one word. In all honesty, I sometimes forget what my word is by the end of the year unless I'm living it well or struggling hard with it.

After some reflection and meditation, the word I've chosen for 2016 is hope. It is a verb demanding action and a noun that sits comfortably around me like an old friend. It leans forward expectantly, waiting for the next thing, either good or bad, to occur. It keeps a song in my heart with it's optimism and doesn't let me dwell too long in the shadows of disappointment.

Hope is something I can cling to in desperate times and offer others in theirs. It's a soft, comforting gift I can give myself and those around me. Hope keeps the good in the bad and reminds me that nothing is permanent, no circumstance or problem. It bolsters my faith and keeps my eyes on the Giver of hope.

So this year...

May I hold hope like a lover, and extend it to those who can't see its spark. May my words lift others spirits, giving hope where there was none.

May I never lose sight of the hope that is within me, the blessed hope that is Jesus, the author and perfecter of my sometimes faltering faith.

May I use hope as a weapon against despair, doubt, hatred, and apathy. May it move me to action to make my corner of the world a better place.

This is my prayer this year, that you will find hope too, in the words I speak and write, and in the people and world around you. May hope light our way so the path isn't quite so dark. May it point us to Jesus and the abundant, hope-filled life He offers. If life becomes so dark you can't see, don't forget to light the match of hope. Look for others who hold that spark and can pass it to you. Or be the torch bearer for someone else. Hope makes everything better.

If you were to choose one word to live out this year, what would it be? Write it in the comments below.


Friday, December 25, 2015

The Christmas Morning Order

Every family has it's own special way of doing Christmas. Here, in a nutshell is ours.

1. Open stockings
2. Drink Christmas coffee with my mom, who comes over to enjoy the morning with us.
3. My husband reads the Christmas story aloud to us from Luke 2.
4. Open presents.
5. Go to our extended family Christmas gathering, usually at my mom's house.

Here's hoping you're having such a wonderful time with family and friends celebrating the birth of our Savior that you don't even have time to read this. But if, perchance, you have a spare moment and are, then Merry Christmas to you!

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9:15, NIV) And in case you haven't read it yet, here's the biblical story of Jesus' birth, from Luke 2 (NIV). Take it in, savor it, and appreciate how very much God loves you.

The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place whilea Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to their own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!


Thursday, December 24, 2015

My Christmas Tree

I have never had a Christmas without a Christmas tree. Some have been "real" and others artificial. The last several years, at our youngest daughter's request, we've had a real tree . I love the smell of it and it's fun to go out and find just the right one. I prefer the six to eight-foot noble firs.

Here is a picture of what our tree usually looks like. Sometimes we place a star on top and other times an angel. Lights, garland, ornaments, the typical stuff. Nothing too fancy. Lots of homemade treasures.

Our typical Christmas tree.

A couple of my favorite things on my Christmas tree are my heart garland and my pine cone garland. I bought the heart garland at the dollar store over ten years ago. I just love its simplicity. Wish I had bought a few more packages of it.

My heart garland. This may be the best thing I ever bought at the dollar store.

I just made the pine cone garland last year out of pine cones my grandson, Seth, and I picked up on one of our visits to see them in Salem, OR. Then I added a few of my own from our mountain property and strung them all together with twine. Here's how it turned out. I love it.

My homemade pine cone garland.

Here's what the two look like together on the tree.

But in the name of keeping it real and always being honest with you, this year our tree is kind of a disappointment. When we went to get it, we found that most of the lots were nearly out of our beloved noble firs. We settled on one that was less-than-noble, though its label bragged that it was every bit as noble as the price tag warranted. And despite giving the trunk a fresh cut, it has refused to drink up any water. It sat naked in the tree stand for the first several days, after which we finally added lights and an angel on top.

Normally, we make a big deal out of decorating the tree. I make eggnog and we put on Christmas music. Then we lovingly place ornaments on the tree, reminiscing as we pull out the different ones. But this year, we were tired and our schedules between activities and work (ours and our daughter's) just weren't coordinating. So today, only a day before Christmas, our tree has nary an ornament or strand of garland on it's brittle boughs.

Our tree this year.
But you know what? I don't mind it. Actually, when my husband and I admitted to each other that we could care less if we did another thing to the tree, a little bit of stress rolled off. We don't have to decorate the tree! Yes! I smugly put the boxes of ornaments back in the closet instead of letting them stare me down every day trying to invoke guilt. I was in charge of them, doggone-it, not vice versa.

I have other decorations out and our hearts love the story of Jesus' birth no less with an undecorated tree. Unless you look closely, you can't even tell the shiny orbs are missing. The lights shine brightly through our front window just as lovely as in previous years. I even took this new freedom into other areas of my Christmas decorating and didn't put out all the things I usually do. No one has even noticed. But it simplified my life immensely and I'll be so glad to have less to put away after Christmas.

So here's to making life simpler and less stressful at Christmas. I think I'll try to carry this trend right into the new year.

Are there things you feel you must do at Christmas that are more stress than pleasure? Consider letting them go and see what happens. So often our stress and guilt are self-imposed. Be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to not do some of the holiday things you've always done. Breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the gift of a baby born in a manger with that extra time you have.

And by all means, have the merriest of Christmases!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How to Host a Shepherd's Dinner

I wrote the following post two years ago and it has been one of my most popular Christmas posts. So I thought I'd share it with you again in case you missed it the first time. Hosting a Shepherd's Dinner is a fun family activity that even the youngest (and oldest) family members can enjoy and participate in.

The night Jesus was born, the shepherds were "watching their flocks at night" (Luke 2:8) You and your family are going to become one of these shepherds for your shepherd's dinner.

Costumes: Bathrobes; headdresses made of dish towels or cloths. Fasten your headdress with a headband or strip of cloth tied around your forehead.

Explain to your kiddos that shepherds were people whose job was to take care of sheep. They didn't just put out food and water for them like we do for our dog. They stayed out in the field with their sheep all night, watching over them so wild animals didn't come and hurt them. Remind them this is what a good shepherd does and that Jesus called Himself The Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14-15).

If possible, have your shepherd's dinner outside around a campfire or outdoor fireplace. Then you can look at the stars and wonder which one might have guided the wise men. If you can't have your dinner outside, spread a blanket on the floor and have an indoor picnic. Stick a few stars (one bigger than the rest) on the ceiling for added effect. Imagine what it would have been like to be watching your sheep like usual and suddenly see the sky light up with angels. 

Engage your child's imagination by asking them questions, such as:
How would you have felt when you saw the angels in the sky?
What do you think that looked like? or Finish this sentence: A sky full of angels would be as bright as _____.
What would you have done when you saw the angels and heard what they said?
How do you think the sheep reacted?
Do you think you would like being a shepherd? Why or why not?
What would be your favorite part of being a shepherd? Least favorite?

Make your shepherd's dinner a fun event. Let the kids help prepare the food. Keep your menu simple, like they would have had in Bible times.

Sample menu
Cheese and crackers
Bread and jam, honey, or hummus
Fresh or dried fruit
Nuts or seeds
Beef jerky or cooked meat

During your shepherd's dinner, read the Christmas story from either your Bible (Luke 2:1-20) or a children's picture book. A couple of my favorites are: "The Christmas Story" by Jane Werner Watson and "Room for Little One" by Martin Waddell. Talk about that miraculous night of Jesus' birth, but don't drag it out longer than the kids can listen. Keep it fun and allow for silliness. After all, you want your shepherd's dinner to be a tradition they look forward to year after year.

I pray you enjoy your shepherd's dinner. Fine-tune it as needed to work for your family. Most of all, remember the Savior, the greatest gift of the season.

Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Some of the best things about Christmas are the fabulous movies they show on TV. Granted, some are just pure sap and corn, but some are so great! Without further ado, here is a list of my favorite Christmas movies.

It's a Wonderful Life - Isn't this on everyone's list? Great story, wonderful message, and Jimmy Stewart. What's not to love?

A Christmas Story - This one still cracks me up. "You'll shoot your eye out!" And that leg lamp. A classic, for sure.

Elf - Will Farrell in an elf costume. He's over-the-top enthusiastic and funny. Good stuff.

The Polar Express - I loved the book by Chris Van Allsburg and I love the movie. The fact that Tom Hanks voices six of the main characters is remarkable. And the story is magical.

Miracle on 34th Street - I love this oldie, though the newer version is good, too. Great story line that always makes me root for the little girl and Santa. A wonderful feel-good ending.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - Another classic. This is on my list because it tells the biblical story of Jesus' birth in a way that isn't preachy or outdated. It stays true to the characters, yet lets them deliver an important, inspiring message the whole world needs to hear.

I'm sure there are others I could add to this list like White Christmas, Holiday Inn, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and the like. I love them, too! But I'm drawing the line here and asking you to list your favorites in the comments.

What are your favorite Christmas movies and why? There are so many out there I'm sure I'll hear about some I've never seen.


Monday, December 21, 2015

My Christmas Parties

Christmas is a busy time, and adding to the busyness is usually a few Christmas parties. I'm thankful to be a part of some extraordinary groups who celebrate this holiday for its true meaning, Jesus' birth. As I write this, I've already attended three parties so far. By the time you read this I will have attended four.

The first party was with my writer's critique group, Tuesday's Children. I've been meeting weekly with these ladies for twenty years, so they're really more like family than work associates. Every year we gather at one of our houses and have a potluck brunch and exchange used books taken from our own book shelves. This year I got a few children's books that I can pass on to my grandchildren as gifts. Score! Some of us also bring a Christmas thought, either a story, a game, something we've written, or a devotion we found. This gathering is one of our favorite times of the year and it draws members who can't always meet weekly with us. Here's a picture taken at last year's party. This year's big regret was that we forgot to take a picture!

The second party I attended was at the Choices Pregnancy Center, where I volunteer as a peer counselor one day a week. This is a new endeavor for me this year, so it was fun to go and meet other people who also work there and have a heart for this ministry. We had lots of yummy food, played some games (CatchPhrase, anyone?) and got better acquainted. It was a special time and I'm so thankful to be part of this organization,

Next, since my husband is a Gideon (you know, those guys who hand out free Bibles and put them in the hotels), we attended the Gideon Christmas dinner. It was a lovely evening with a delicious meal of ham, turkey, potatoes, salad, rolls, and red velvet cake. After dinner, there was special music sung by one of the members, then a Christmas story read to us by another. Then we all joined together in singing Christmas carols and a couple of door prizes were given away. The Gideons have a tradition of ending all their meetings by forming a circle and singing "Blessed Be the Tie that Binds," then closing with prayer. It was a wonderful evening and fun to see friends I hadn't seen in a while.

The last Christmas gathering I'll attend is at my church. We'll have a dinner in the evening, followed by a Christmas service. It's always a special time of closeness and reflection. This year we're also adding in a time to do a service project to give to families in need. It will remind us of our great blessings, the greatest being the gift of Jesus, given at Christmas.

So that's my Christmas party schedule this year, except for the family gatherings.

What about you? Are you attending any special get-togethers this season?


Friday, December 18, 2015

My Christmas Jewelry

When I say "my Christmas jewelry" as in the title, I use that term loosely. Mainly, all I have are Christmas earrings, and maybe a few pins. But I love them!

Many moons ago, my sweet mother gave my sister and me new Christmas earrings every year. That was back when we were in the depths of raising children and never buying anything for ourselves. She saw to it that we at least had new earrings once a year. We looked forward to it and I still have some of mine. (Side note: my youngest daughter turned 20  last week. That's how long I've managed to not lose every pair.)

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy seeing my Christmas jewelry. And even if you won't, I'm going to show you anyway. So sit down and relax. :) This won't take long. I promise.

Sparkly Angel

Snowflake stud

Sparkly Christmas tree

Pearl Snowman

Rustic Christmas Tree

Christmas Wreath

Dangly Snowflake

Christmas Tree Stud
Jingle Bell

Christmas Presents

The next two are my Christmas pins.

Christmas Bells

Christmas Angel

So there you have it. My whole collection of Christmas jewelry. My favorite earrings are the rustic Christmas trees and the Christmas presents. I get the most comments on that last one.Thanks for humoring me and looking at some of my favorite things.

Do you have any Christmas jewelry? Share your pictures in the comments below.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Baby Santa

Like it or not, Christmas usually stirs up lots of memories. I happen to like it because most of my memories are good. Here's one of my favorites.

It was the Christmas of 1985 and my firstborn, Jessica, was two years and four months old. I wondered if she would remember any of the things I tried to teach her the previous Christmas. She was only sixteen months at the time, so I wasn't sure she'd retain much of the story of Jesus' birth. But I told her about it anyway. We talked of birthdays and babies and how much God loved us. I showed her the nativity set and told her who each person was. I quizzed her almost daily about who that baby was. She quickly learned to reply, "Baby Jesus!"

So this year as I unwrapped the ceramic figures and lovingly placed them in the stable, she looked on with restrained excitement.

"This is Mary, the mama," I reminded her. "And this is Joseph, the daddy."

I took the baby from its protective cocoon and set him in front of Mary and Joseph. "Here's the baby."

She looked at me expectantly.

"Do you remember His name?"

Her brown eyes sparkled, a smile lit up her face. "Yes!"

A sizzle of excitement ran through me. She remembers! "You do? What is it?"

"Baby Santa!"

Well, not exactly what I hoped she'd say, but we've laughed about it ever since. By the end of that Christmas season she had it down pat and has never forgotten again. Now she teaches her own children about the Christ child and His miraculous birth.

Do you have a special Christmas story you like to retell? Share it with your family this year for old time's sake.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Gift-Giving

Let's face it, a big part of Christmas is giving and receiving gifts. It's even part of the biblical story of Jesus' birth. I've been blessed in that I've never had a Christmas where I couldn't give or receive presents. Some years have been more sparse than others, but never have I gone without gifts.

In my childhood, my sister and I would often go through the department store catalog and circle things we wanted. Or name our favorite item on each page. We always bought gifts with our parents' help for each member of our family. We learned early that it's fun to give and make someone else happy.

When I was ten, we moved to Arizona and soon some of our extended family followed. At our family Christmas gatherings, we'd exchange white elephant gifts, a tradition we still do to this day. Young children get gifts of their own and don't participate in this exchange. We let them decide when they want to be part of it. We draw numbers to see who gets the first gift. They choose what gift they want, and unwrap it for all to see. The next person can either choose a gift from under the tree or take the gift the first person opened. If he takes it, the first person chooses another gift from under the tree. It continues like this until everyone has opened a gift. It's fun to watch gifts get "stolen" from someone and sometimes they go back and forth several times. You never know what you're going to end up with. Great times with family and lots of laughs!

As a parent, we try to get our kids at least one thing they've asked for on their wish list and hopefully more than that. Now that two of our children are married, we often buy one gift for husbands and wives together. Sometimes it's a membership to an art museum or the science center. Other times we buy individual gifts. Some years we haven't had much money and made it a point to give homemade gifts. These are without a doubt gifts from the heart and are often cherished even more than the store-bought kind.

Another group of people I exchange gifts with is my weekly writers critique group, Tuesday's Children. Every year we have a Christmas brunch where we each bring food to share. Then we exchange gifts. We've made a tradition of giving a used book from our own book shelves.Some of us also bring a Christmas thought to share, either funny or serious.It's one of our favorite times together.

How do you do gift giving? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Caroling Memories

My first memory of Christmas caroling is when I was a teen and our church youth group went caroling. We drove to the houses of our congregation's elderly members and stood outside and sang until they opened the door, delighted smiles gracing their faces. I was hooked. I've loved Christmas caroling ever since. Most of my experiences mirrored this one. Only a few float to the surface as exceptional or different.

One such time was during one of my two Christmases spent in snowy Minnesota. I was newly married to my Minnesotan husband and we had found a church we loved. They had a caroling night that we decided to attend. The difference between caroling with my youth group in Arizona where I'd grown up and in Minnesota in 1991 was about sixty degrees. In Minnesota, we bundled up with coats, scarves, hats, and mittens and piled into cars that puffed white smoke out their tailpipes, with heaters running full blast. I loved it because it was so different than what I was used to. When we finished making our rounds of caroling, we finished off at the church with hot apple cider, coffee, tea, and homemade pie. I'll never forget the warm feeling I had inside even though it was below zero outside.

The next year we moved back to sunny Arizona and have lived here ever since. That was over twenty years ago. As the years passed, my parents became the recipients of our church Christmas caroling and it wasn't just a youth group activity anymore. I loved seeing the joy on their faces when they opened the door and my dad would invariably join in the singing in his booming bass voice.

Ten years ago last August, Parkinson's disease took my dad and that year we celebrated our first Christmas without him. We still went caroling at Mom's, and when she opened up the door and stood there alone listening to our carols, fresh grief washed over me. I had forgotten Dad wouldn't be there and Mom looked so tiny there without Dad by her side.

Another year, when my children were young, our church didn't have a caroling night. Our family missed it, so we decided to go caroling on our own. We only went to a few good friends' houses, but it was still fun and I know they appreciated it.

Sometimes it's hard to squeeze Christmas caroling into an already busy holiday schedule. But it is a classic Christmas tradition that brings joy to people. It's an unexpected surprise that makes them feel loved. I'm hoping we can fit it in this year, even if it's just a small group.

Will you Christmas carol this year? Have you been the recipient of carolers? 


Monday, December 14, 2015

My Favorite Christmas Books

At Christmas, I sometimes like to read something that gets me in the Christmas spirit. I'll share a few of the books that have helped me do that.

Mary's Journal, A Mother's Story by Evelyn Bence gives life to Jesus's mother, before she conceived him, during her pregnancy, and in the early years of Jesus' life. It is imaginatively written, but done in such a way that it seems very believable. I gained fresh insight into that time period, its customs, and what might have been some of Mary's thoughts and feelings as the mother of God's Son.

Shepherd's Abiding by Jan Karon is the heartwarming story of Father Tim trying to restore an old nativity for his wife, Cynthia. It's filled with the usual quirky characters from Mitford and written with Karon's typical warmth and humor. If you're a Mitford fan, you need to add this to your collection.

The Modern Magi, by Carol Lynn Pearson is short, only 71 pages, which may be one of the reasons I love it so much. I actually read this one to my children when they were upper elementary age, one chapter each night. It's about middle-aged Annabelle Perkins, who dreams of visiting the Holy land to give Jesus a gift at his birthplace just like the wise men did two thousand years ago. She saves her money for months and months and is about to fulfill her dream. But then some surprising things happen that force Annabelle to rethink her trip. I highly recommend this book.

Two from Galilee by Marjorie Holmes is a classic. It's the love story of Mary and Joseph and includes the early life of Jesus. Holmes uses her generous imagination to bring the pages of scripture alive. If you love this book, you might also want to read its sequels, Three from Galilee and The Messiah.

God's Precious Gift in a Manger - by Rebecca Ann Lamb is unlike any other children's Christmas book I've seen. Written for kids ages four through seven, it begins at creation and, as the back of the book says, "puts the Christmas story in historical perspective. Ever since sin separated people from God, God had a plan to restore their relationship with Him. Since the beginning of time, He knew His gift would give life back to humanity. And that gift was a manger. Follow God's plan through the Bible to the birth of Jesus. And gain a deeper understanding of God's love for His people." The illustrations by David L. Erickson are absolutely beautiful and the text is written simply enough for young children to understand. At the back of the book are activities and questions for parents to use with their children.

The Christmas Conversation Piece (or as I like to call it, The Christmas Question) by Paul Lowrie and Bret Nicholaus is a book of  Christmas related questions. You can use it to spur conversations and get to know people better. I've used it as an ice breaker in Sunday school classes, parties, Christmas open houses, and just with my own family. However you choose to use it, it's lots of fun and because of that it has earned its place on my favorite Christmas books list.

So there you have it, my favorite Christmas books. Did I leave out your favorites? List them in the comments. Happy reading!


Friday, December 11, 2015

The Christmas Vote

One of my favorite Christmas memories is from my childhood. I was probably about seven years old, and my older sister and brother were nine and twelve, respectively. Our family always opened presents on Christmas morning. We'd never done it any other way. But we kids were so excited on Christmas Eve we could hardly stand it.
My family on Christmas morning a few years prior to the telling
of this story. I'm the cute one on the right. 
We had asked repeatedly if we could open our presents on Christmas Eve instead of waiting until morning and we'd been turned down. Finally, on Christmas Eve, my parents brought us all together and said, "Let's vote on when we should open gifts."

A sizzle of excitement ran between my siblings and me knowing we were a majority all by ourselves. We had this!  We grinned. "OK! Let's vote!"

When my dad said, "Who wants to open presents tonight?" every hand went up including Mom and Dad's. Our jaws dropped for a moment before we began laughing and hugging them. I think they may have been the most loved parents in the whole world in that moment. They'd really pulled one over on us.

I don't recall the circumstances, if Christmas fell on a Sunday, or if my parents just decided to switch things up. I imagine they wanted to see the delight on the faces of their children more than anything. Whatever their reason, they gave us a Christmas to remember, not because of the gifts they bought us, but because of the surprise of when we opened them.

Do you recall a Christmas surprise? Share it in the comments.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

My Favorite Christmas Songs

Part of what makes Christmas, well, Christmas, is the music. I know not everyone is into Christmas carols. I'm not into a lot of them myself. But some songs are just so beautiful and capture so perfectly the wonder of that night so long ago, I just have to mention them. I'll even include links for my favorite renditions of them for your listening pleasure.
Breath of Heaven - Seriously, this song nails it as to what Mary must have felt as she carried the Son of God inside her. Who wouldn't have felt inadequate? Who wouldn't have been afraid? Who wouldn't have cried out "Help me?" I love the raw honesty in these lyrics 

Welcome to Our World - This song makes it so easy to picture the squirming baby Savior of the world. I love its simplicity and the contrast between our broken world and Christ's perfect holiness come to heal it. Chris Rice is one of my favorites, mainly because he's so James Taylor-ish. What's not to love about that?

Mary Did You Know? - The perspective here is awesome. Seeing the baby Jesus, yet knowing His future begs the title's question. I wonder how much God actually revealed to Mary ahead of time. Or did He let the days gently unfold as he does with all earthly parents?

Silent Night - This is such a classic song and brings me to tears every year. It's the Amazing Grace of the Christmas season. Everyone knows it.

Mary's Boy Child - I love this because of its Jamaican flair. It's so different from most Christmas songs. In our church, we were encouraged to get out our car keys and jingle them as we sang it. So fun!

Nutcracker Suite - For several years, the girls in my family went to see The Nutcracker ballet together at Christmastime. Ever since, I've loved the music and can see the scenes unfold as it plays. To me, this is classic Christmas music even though it doesn't have anything to do with Jesus' birth. I've given you a link to listen to the entire soundtrack if you'd like, song by song. You're welcome.

I'm sure there are others that I left out. But these are the songs that immediately came to mind as I sat down to write.

What are your favorite Christmas songs? Least favorite? Share them in the comments below.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa and Me

Though I titled this post Santa and me, I'm not sure we actually have a relationship. Sorry.
Santa and I have had an on again, off again relationship most of my life. More off than on, really. I don't have any ill feelings toward the jolly old elf, but I was never enamored with him like some kids are.

While growing up, my parents always taught us that Christmas was Jesus' birthday and that's why we celebrate. I never once felt like I missed out by not being fed the whole Santa Claus story. I still got gifts, but they were from people I loved like my parents, siblings, and grandparents. To me, that was more special than getting them from someone I didn't know who dressed in a funny red suit.

I never had to go through the trauma of learning that Santa wasn't real. I'd never believed in him to begin with. It wasn't that my parents bad-mouthed the guy or said we couldn't believe in him. It just wasn't our focus. He was just another decoration, like Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph. Jesus was the real deal and our attention was on Him.

As a child, I loved babies. I loved the Bible story of baby Moses being hidden in the reeds and guarded by his big sister, Miriam. My love of babies also extended to the baby Jesus figurine in our nativity set. He was so cute! I loved him before I understood the significance of who He was.

And maybe that's the point. Decorations like the nativity scene silently point families to Jesus, the reason for our Christmas celebration. They cultivate something deep in a child (and adults!) that gives them hope. This hope isn't just for Christmas morning like the kind Santa offers. It's hope that lasts through all of life and its crazy ups and downs. It hands out love like the gift it is, wrapped in a swaddling cloth, lying in a manger.

Santa is jolly, Jesus is joy. Santa is temporary, Jesus is forever. Santa keeps a list of our wrongs, Jesus wiped them away on the cross. Santa rides in a reindeer-pulled sleigh, Jesus will one day return on a cloud, no vehicle required.

So Santa and me? I'm so over him. But Jesus and me? Yeah. We're a forever thing.

Where do things stand between you and Santa? More importantly, where do things stand with you and Jesus? 


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Our Advent Calendar

It's Timeless Tuesday here at PWAS so I wanted to share with you one of our most timeless Christmas traditions, my daughter's advent calendar.

My daughter, Ashley, is my parents' youngest grandchild. She is seventeen years younger than the oldest grandchild. Around each grandchild's third Christmas, my mom made them an advent calendar.

Mom lovingly sewed each calendar using the same pattern, yet made each one unique. Some of the pockets have numbers on them and some have bows. The Christmas trees on some have trunks and others do not. Some have cloth borders and some are entirely felt.  Finally, Mom added a hand-written label on the back of each one that had a special message of love to that child.

Once the calendar was sewn, Mom went to the store and found little Christmas do-dads that would fit inside the tiny pockets. She stuck a strip of Velcro on the back of each item so it could stick to the felt Christmas tree.

On December 1, the child takes the ornament from the first pocket and sticks it on the tree. The last ornament to be pulled from the last pocket is the one that goes on top of the tree. For some it's a star, for others it's an angel.

All three of my children and all their cousins have enjoyed their advent calendars through the years. As they've grown up and moved away, their calendars have gone with them. Some share them with their spouses and their own children now. It's a reminder of home, family, and a grandma who loves them.

Does your family have an advent calendar? Share a picture of if in the comments.


Monday, December 7, 2015

I Collect Nativities

Happy Me Monday! Something you probably don't know is that I collect nativities. I don't have a bunch of them, but I do love the ones I have. Several of them were given to me. Here are pictures of some of my favorites.

Southwestern Nativity - This was giving to by my friend, Donna. I love how different it is from any others I have. I also love the detail and that the drummer boy is playing a tom-tom. Living in Arizona, it's perfect for my southwestern culture.

Traditional Ceramic - This was my first nativity and I've put it out for over thirty years. I love the soft colors and the sweet faces of the holy family.

Olive Wood - This nativity is special to me because my parents brought it back to me from the Holy Land. Sadly, some of the pieces have been lost through the years. But I still put it out because it comes from the actual birthplace of our Savior.

Cloth nativity - This one doesn't live at my house any more, but it did for many years while my children were growing up. My mom made it for them and now my grandchildren enjoy it at my daughter's house. They can play with the figures without fear of breaking them.

Newest addition - I was given this simple nativity this year, again by my friend, Donna. Isn't it beautiful?

While I was writing this blog, my daughter texted me a picture of my only granddaughter, Lillian, in her new Christmas dress. I just had to include it in this post because I've never seen a Christmas dress quite like it. So this isn't really part of my nativity collection, but it's a great excuse to show off my darling five-year-old granddaughter. :) Don't you think?

I'd love to see pictures of any nativity sets you put up at Christmas. Won't you share them in the comments?