Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day Twenty-One

I'm just a little bit behind.....


Shopping is not usually my favorite activity.  Somehow it usually makes me feel incapable, inept and awkward.  It makes me wish I had a daughter.  I almost always find myself wishing that I could magically make my niece Melanie appear by my side to help me (she is magic when it comes to shopping!).  Especially if I am shopping for clothing.

Shopping for others is better; there is great joy in finding something that will put a smile on someone's face.  Yet I struggle to think of ideas for folks who are over the age of about 8.

I went shopping on Friday.  I called my sister on my way to the first store, and she just happened to be in the general vicinity, so we met for a cup of coffee before I got started.  Sister-time to start that kind of expedition is tremendously helpful and encouraging.  Especially with any of my sisters, in-law or otherwise!

After we finished coffee and she made her way back to work to grade that last exam, I looked over my plan and got to work.  Head down, focus on what matters and get the job done, right?

So what is it that really matters?  God has given this season to remind me of the great gift He has given me.  Not only have I been redeemed; before He went back to heaven, Jesus promised to give me a helper.  He tells me that the result of this helper being with me includes joy.  


As I think about that walking through the stores, my expedition becomes less about finding the "perfect" gift for a list of people (whom I love dearly).  That gift is important because it helps me express to them how very much I love them, but it is also an opportunity to reflect and share my joy with the people around me.  Not the fake, look-at-me-I'm-so-joyful kind of thing, but genuine joy.  

It means being willing to take the time if necessary to interact with someone I don't know.  It might mean offering to return a cart into the store for a young mother struggling to get packages and children into the car.  It might mean nothing more than a smile to the down-cast older man.  It might mean a cheerful, "Merry Christmas!" to the woman trying to get through the line at the Dollar Tree.

It means listening to someone who starts talking.  Listening and realizing that they have a story they really need to tell to someone.  Like the young lady in the gas station who was talking about decorating her register....because her mother did not want to decorate the house.   It meant taking a moment (even though I was in a rush to be DONE with the whole shopping experience), to ask her how her mother was doing and what made her mother feel that way.  When you do that, you discover things like the fact that this was the family's first Christmas without Dad, who died back in June.  And you find that this may be the last Christmas with Mom, who is thought to have a particularly nasty and lethal cancer.  You connect.  You pull out the book that you "just happened" to decide to put in your purse that morning before you left the house, that favorite Christmas book, Triumph Over Tragedy.  You take just a moment to encourage.  You promise to pray for this family (and if you promise, you pray!!).  Perhaps in the busy-ness of the next week, you take the time to check back in and remind her that you are indeed praying.  

So look around you this week as you are out and about.  Pray and ask God to give you the eyes of Jesus; eyes to see folks as Jesus sees them and to reach out with compassion.  It may only be a 30 second interaction to just say "Merry Christmas!"  It may be a 30 minute interaction to listen.   And maybe, just maybe, if you are willing to put self aside for a little while, you will have the privilege of attending another kind of birth.  Maybe God will allow you the honor of being present when someone is re-born spiritually.  

May His wisdom, His discernment, His joy and His love overwhelm you this week.

And may you share that generously with everyone you meet.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day Eighteen


I love Christmas trees.  If I thought I could get away with it, I would have a tree in every single room of the house.  I decided that this year I was going to have a second tree.  I just wanted a little one and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it.  I was thinking about going to the store and seeing if they had their trees discounted yet when Jack stepped in with a suggestion.

Jack took me for a little walk out on the side hill.  Guess what we found?

Isn't it lovely?!

Good thing I brought a shovel and a bucket.

I didn't want to cut it down; I wanted to try and save the root so that we can plant it in the front yard after Christmas.  Sort of like the old John Douglas Fir Tree (that's a family joke).

We managed to get the tree levered out of the ground with most of the root intact.

I hope.

Do you remember me telling you about saving all that dirt in the pots at the end of the summer? 

Now you see why we do that.

I had a few small ornaments to trim it

Then I got the wreath put up.
It's not fancy, but I like it.

So does Jack.

Indoors I got our manger scene fixed to my liking.  Old navy blue sheets are quite useful.

The wisemenman is still traveling from Switzerland

And one of my favorite ~ and quite important ~ decorations made it out to the piano:

It was quite a day, with this and baking.

I wore Mr. Marvelous' kitten out with all the activity.

Seems that Jack was a little tired too!

Now back to the baking....

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day Seventeen

I enjoy words.  I enjoy learning words and finding out where they come from and what they mean.  I enjoy using words, although anyone who knows me would tell you that I am much better at writing words than speaking words!  One of my favorite quotes from Rush Limbaugh is, "Words mean things!"

Often when I am reading or studying my Bible, I will find a word and go dig out my big dictionary and my Bible dictionary just to make sure I understand that particular word.  I have been known to sit taking notes during a sermon and jot a note to myself in the corner to do a word study on a particular word the preacher uses.

One of my favorite words in the Bible or out of the Bible is the word, sanctify.  I love how this word has multiple layers of meaning.  My Websters tells me that it comes from two Latin words, sanctus which means holy (Saint comes from that same word), and facio, to make.  To make holy.  It also means to set apart

I have been sanctified through the birth, the life, the work, the death and the resurrection of Jesus, and through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.  I have been made holy, and (don't neglect this part) I have been set apart. 

As we approach the day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus remember to spend some time thinking about the why of His coming.  Christmas is wonderful but it has little meaning if we are not thinking about the coming of Easter and the celebration of Jesus' finished work; God's glory and our sanctification.

Yesterday as I was reading through the book of Ezekiel, I came to this description of God in Ezekiel 20:12

The Lord Who Sanctifies

I pray that over the next few days you will take a little time to meditate on that.  In the meditation of that, I believe that you will find a depth and fullness and richness added to your celebration of Christmas!

His peace ~ and presence ~ to your home.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day 15

We're On The Home Stretch!

It's getting close.  Can you feel it?  It is only nine days until Christmas.  

This is the week I will (finally) be decorating.  We went and cut down a tree over the weekend and my house smells absolutely wonderful.  The tree is up and (mostly) decorated.  It's a little more minimalist this year which is quite different from my usual full tree.  Mr. Marvelous has even talked about a second tree for all his quirky and crazy cow and pink flamingo ornaments, so I will pick up a small cheap one when I am out today.  The garland and the wreath will go up on the front porch.  The nativity sets are (mostly) up (I have more than one.  I love nativity sets).  The wisemenman has moved over to Switzerland ~ that means he is standing on top of my picture of Geneva ~ so is halfway around the living room to the nativity.  

I will finish up shopping for gifts this week, and get a few things in the mail.  I might even start my baking this week.  I will be listening to some great music this week; Handel (I can never get enough of The Messiah), some Pergolesi (yes, it is in Latin.  I still love it), some Mannheim Steamroller, some Transiberian Orchestra (see, I am eclectic), and some good old fashioned carols.

I will be getting ready for out of town company, time with the grandchildren whom my sister so generously shares with me, an extended family trip to the Alabama Theater to see a Christmas movie, and all the other delightful odds and ends that fill our days this time of year.  

I will be sitting quietly in my rocker in the early mornings and late evenings (and throughout the day).  I will be thanking God for His many gifts this past year; the ones that I am aware of, the ones that I don't even know He gave me, the ones that hurt, and especially for the gift of Jesus.  I will be confessing my sins and confessing His ultimate authority in my life.  I will be asking His peace and mercy to fill the hearts and homes of friends who have suffered through a family death this year.  I will be asking Him to help me see Him more clearly; to know Him better and show Him better to the world around me.  I will be listening.

Enjoy!  Celebrate!  

But in the middle of the enjoyment and the celebration, stop.... 

...and listen.  

Remember Who this season is about.  

Give thanks for the great gift we have been offered!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day 12

Guess what we are going to go get and decorate this weekend?

Apart from loading it into the vehicle, putting it into the stand and bringing it into the house, this is Mr. Marvelous' principle role in the process:

And he does it quite well, thank you.

A few of our ornaments are hand-made


This little guy will watch over the proceedings.

Words to live by, don't you think?

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day Eleven


What shall we do today to prepare for Christmas?

I looked around this morning and wondered what to do.  

Jack thinks that my floors and carpets might need a little attention

The catnip does seem to go everywhere when our cats get into it!

He also suggested that this might be a good day to do a little Christmas baking.

I understand that many of you are not fans of fruitcake (except for my niece, Miss A.)
However, Mr. Marvelous LOVES fruitcake and this is his mother's recipe. 
I restrict him to one.  Or two.  Maybe three.

Let me know if you want the recipe; I will share!

Jack also suggested that if I have time after doing housework and cooking, I could sit in the rocker and peruse some Christmas books.
Since next week is decorating week.

I told Jack that these suggestions are excellent but before we do anything else, I need to spend some time working through a few chapters of Ezekiel.  Does that seem like a peculiar choice for Christmas preparation?  Probably!  But as I read through Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel, I realize afresh how desperately I need Christmas.  When I deepen my understanding of my spiritual hopelessness and inability to do anything righteous or good on my own power, then my appreciation of the hope of Christmas is exponentially deeper.

So I will spend a little time here....

...and then I will spend a little time with my prayer book, praying for those of you who particularly need to be reminded of that hope....

....and those of you for whom I have promised to pray.    

If you need any suggestions for your own prayer time today, would you please include Bill?  He had a marathon surgery yesterday for cancer.  

God's peace ~ and hope! ~ to your homes.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Twenty Four Days of Christmas Day Ten

A Little Light-hearted Music

Not all my music is serious/classical.  Here are two of my favorites that are a little more light-hearted

I discovered this one last year

One of our local churches has a men's group that has performed this, so I went to Youtube and found the original by Straight No Chaser.  These guys are fantastic!  

Their tempo, their energy and ESPECIALLY their sense of humor is appealing. 

So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and get ready to laugh.

And many, many thanks to both the Patrick Johnston family, and Straight No Chaser.