Merry Christmas!!

Christmas Stocking stuffers galore

So what is in your stocking? Did you get awesome gifts from Santa? Did you get showered with big presents and have a grand old time? Or did you have some of those special gifts that you weren’t expecting on Christmas Day?

I, for one, only asked for one thing – yes one - Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I could borrow it from a friend but I wanted my own copy – see I don’t blast through books quickly I take (at a snails pace) my time. I do better with children’s books (maybe I shouldn’t admit that but I do) its a hobby and hopefully a career of mine. So I wanted my own copy of this book. But on Christmas Eve/Christmas morning (and the day after) I got more than  I expected or asked for.

A Snowman Nutcracker - my snowman collection is growing YAY!

Hula Snowman - I think he's supposed to be made of "sand"

Those are my two cheeriest gifts. Anyone who knows me well knows that I love snowmen as a matter of fact my Jim Shore snowman is out all year long and so is my snowman plaque. Its not because I am not fond of Santa or even Jesus at Christmas – I just love snow, the quietness, the magical crisp and sparkling hue of snow.  Its calming and reflective. So my snowmen made my Christmas cheerier!

Now on to the books – I had been wanting to read Crazy Love by Francis Chan and asked for it specifically for Christmas – but I also got One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. So during the quiet still of winter I will have some great reading to do.

Along with the crazy love of God – there is my crazy love for Steve. We have been together for “a million years” and unfortunately we are not able to spend every waking minute together but along with God, (my creator, first and foremost) Steve  has my heart.

Merry Christmas, Love.

I also received a pair of swirly silver earrings, a purple shirt, some cozy socks, a poncho and a sweater. And my other great love, coffee, I have another travel cup to add to my collection (I leave them at church all the time – but that’s ok it will keep me coming back).

These are just some of the highlights of gifts I cherished and never expected this Christmas. Gifts given, unexpected and undeserved – yet given freely out of grace, sacrifice and LOVE. Just like Jesus – His grace freely given, His Life , a sacrifice and His redemption is priceless and HIS LOVE is awesome.

Enjoy the rest of your Christmas and Have a blessed New Year!

I love Christmas, I always have. If you remember last year’s Advent postings on A Family Advent: Keeping the Savior in the Season, the focus of those four weeks was Hope, Peace, Love and Joy. Each week was filled with food for thought, family activities and children’s projects and goals for the season of Advent.

This year I decided to return to a book that I’d had for a few years Advent Moments: Preparing Your Heart for the Coming King. I have to admit I didn’t give it much thought – then while at the store I was looking at other new devotionals for Advent – a little voice said no use the Advent Moments devotional it would be good to take another look at it. I mean it’s true I can’t even remember where I had put Christmas decor last year (good thing I have pictures to help), so hardly could I recall the words and devotions in this book.

I am so glad I decided to give it a second look – I have been so inspired and filled by the words in the each day’s reading. I have been at a place that I never wanted to be – separated from God and those that I love, on the outskirts and not initiating like I usually do. Yet, the few minutes that I spend each day in reading the verses and meditations are making the meaning come alive, making its “message” more meaningful and keeping the purpose of this season at the forefront of my thoughts and intentions. Only then can the leftovers of shopping, baking, decorating and merriment be enjoyed at Christmastime.  During this season of Advent and Christmas – meditate on the hope, the peace, the joy and the LOVE.

Advent and Christmastime are not meant to be exclusive holidays to just Christians – no the gift of the Saviour Jesus Christ was a gift to the world. And that is LOVE! Jesus was sent for all – all those who hurt, all those who are poor, all those who are struggling, all those who are shameful, all those who are righteous, all those who don’t believe – ALL. Christmas is about Christ the gift of a loving God concerned for his creation, his world, his children.

The Merriest of Christmases to You, Remember the King!

Christmas is such a hard time of year. Everyone, including myself, is bogged down with “to-do” lists and running in circles. That is why this year I chose to focus on the Advent preparation for Christmas Day. Focusing on what I can give this season that will last and not just some wrapped up prize for someone to open. This year was especially draining – I am working full time (and part time). And being able to share my thoughts and sentiments was also very tough. I ran out of time and steam! My three month plan to “save” money just bottomed out – totally!  I ran myself ragged and didn’t stop until Christmas Day. When all was set and done – we had a simple Christmas. Everyone agreed not to buy needless gifts that no one wanted or needed. We decided on gift cards and small gifts.I for one hate getting gifts that I can’t/won’t ever use. It feels spoiled and useless to me. So we took everyone’s advice and did just that. After a Christmas Eve – yes guilty – of last minute gift hunting and kiffle baking, Christmas finally settled in.

Yet, I felt unsettled and thrown into the holiday :-(. I felt totally out of my element, like I was trying to catch up. I vaugely remember Christmas Eve – laughter and paper flying everywhere :-) – kids…you know.  So it seemed we had a “wild” Christmas Eve.

As I drifted off to sleep I had a restless energy and a “tiny” hopeful spirit for Christmas Day. I awoke with even more on my mind than the night before. Just too too much to do and today was the day. We set forth with our plans to have a simple menu instead of a big dinner. We wanted to relax and enjoy the day. The day was filled with present wrapping, laughter and just ‘goings on’. As always a busy house, we paced ourselves into the day and we finally settled in to open our gifts. We shared photos and a few humorous moments and Christmas Day was finally complete.

It would have been better if my Christmas cold/stomach bug didn’t catch up to me :-( yet the simplicity and comfort of the day was all I was longing for. I supposed a stocking filled with trinkets and a tree adorned with gifts is awesome and special but that isn’t what makes the reason for Christmas Day special. After all the gifts are opened and the paper is strewn around – those that you love dearest are the ones that you want to share the day with. Opening gifts alone is no fun either. Christmas is about special moments, joy, family, peace, love and faith – simplicity – these things cannot be wrapped up in boxes and decorated with bows. But they are simple gifts that last a lifetime.

I hope that you had a simply special Christmas.
Shari

So here it is the last week of Advent. A Family Advent: Keeping the Savior in the Season by Thomas Nelson Publishers, has guided us through the last few weeks. The themes being Hope, Peace, Love and now Joy – yes this is the time when the merriment of the holiday really starts to hit home. It is hard though when so much is going on. Work, work, work, holiday shopping, bills, errands, parties and where is the peace, the joy, the hope and the LOVE for the holiday that I once cherished as a child.

I swear I can never get Christmas right every year. Its like some year’s I am on – I get the right gifts and everything works out. And other years I am totally off  – I have no idea what to get anyone, I can’t think of a single meaningful thing to make or create. That is this year – I am befuddled, I am stumped, I am JOY-less. I can’t seem to do Christmas right this year. Even my attempt to go through Advent seemed chaotic and forced – I wanted this to be special. I am still trying to figure it out – how I can salvage this last month of ups and downs. In my struggle to find hope, in my struggle to find peace, in my struggle to love and find joy – I know that there is JOY – for the world, for me, for everyone there is joy.

I have to admit I’ve let the commercialism of Christmas get the best of me. And it has gotten me down – totally depressed and stressed :-(. I would be most joyful with my family and friends at the table, sharing time together and talking together. Last Christmas was just that – time together, the memories and the laughter that is what I remember – the gifts are nice and it is wonderful to give gifts and receive. But it’s not the same if you open your gifts alone. The JOY of togetherness is what makes the true gift of this season special. That is my prayer and wish for the Christmas;

May the JOY of the Saviour’s birth bring us together in harmony, hope, peace, love and grace.

Merry Christmas!

After a year of terrible news and a very stressful summer – I dug out this book A Family Advent: Keeping the Savior in the Season, published by Thomas Nelson. We have a few books here at the house for Advent and I felt that this one was appropriate – something new something to bring us all back together. See we live very busy lives – four grown adults, three who work full-time on different schedules and lead independent lives – holidays and weekends are the few times that we sit and talk or spend time together (or when the remote is lost :-)).

As I paged through, I haven’t read through it – I want to be surprised – I see something for EVERY FAMILY. There are verses, stories, activities and more. There is something for everyone to gain from these daily readings, reflections and activities for the next twenty-six days until Christmas Eve. Compared to the last 11 months a month-long respite with the Savior is over due.

The first week’s focus is HOPE and we need it. The first day asked us to reflect on wants and hopes – for this life and the next life. Hopes and wishes for just this week, the Christmas season and the New Year. I try (struggle) to see God in each aspect of life’s challenges and to find purpose in the things that come. I try to find JOY in the midst of chaos, struggle, financial worries and relationships. I HOPE that this week and season open doors to a better more focused New Year – focus on God and the importance of family and friends who support you no matter what challenges lay ahead.

What are your hopes, dreams and prayers? What do you long or this Advent season?

Here is the Prayer from Sunday’s reflection:

Heavenly Father, we thank You for the blessing of Your Word and Your Son in our lives. We thank You for the hope of our heavenly home where our family can dwell together with You forever. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Blessings this week and this Advent Season –

Thanksgiving….its a time to feast, seek gratitude and enjoy family.  This year was a bit different. Having been a year and a half since working full-time and part-time. I entered Thanksgiving Eve very worn tired and stressed. Holidays seem to trigger stress, discomfort, and problems. Feeling compelled to do for others leaves me so worn and tired sometimes. As I arrived home – ready to begin a paper delivering fest – I discovered that the papers were NOT ready to deliver there were just there. :-( But after some discussion and thought I would just bag and ready them for the “delivery day”. So the night of paper bagging and movie watching went off without a hitch. Late into the night I awoke on the sofa, shut off the tv and headed to bed. No worries tomorrow was Thanksgiving and I would ease into it.

Thanksgiving morning, I readied my pies crust, pumpkin pie mix and my sweet potatoes. As the pie baked away and the turkey sat ready to bake for hours. My mother, panicked and annoyed, said, “Will you get this sea of bags out of here so I can clean the living room? And where is the remote (to the cable box that is)?” I didn’t know moving and shifting the bags, searching under sofas, tables, baskets and more – the remote was missing. Weird I thought I thought I had it last night but I fell asleep and used the other remote to turn off the tv. So I put the papers in my car (for delivery Friday or Saturday), I showered and set back to find the remote. The pie was done, the turkey stuffed and cooking and the REMOTE HUNT still on. We looked in all the same places again and again. I even took to twice looking through the outside garbage (thinking it was tossed with torn papers and bundle bands) only to be disappointed. “Well, I said, I guess we’ll just have to enjoy one another’s company today.”

So as turkey day progressed and passed thoughts lingered as to where the remote had gotten to. We finally rested assured that the remote was somehow in the paper bags….somewhere – but where and which one? I didn’t even want to know. And at that point I didn’t care, I had taken the blame – it was my fault I was the last one to see it and now it was missing. So I entered Friday (Black Friday) with no shopping just plans to ready the house for Christmas. I vacuumed and dusted and put up the tree, I tinsled and ribboned and listened to music with ease. I even re potted my smallest Majesty palm tree (the only one to survive) and decked that one out for the holiday too.

"Small but still majestic & full of life."

I forgot all about the stupid remote and just enjoyed the carols and the warm glow of the icicle lights on the tree. I carefully, fashioned some decorative bows and hung ruby glass ornaments on each frond. Careful not to bind the middle stalk – yes this short little tree has hearty, healthy green stalks shooting out of the center. It is a short sassy little tree but bright with light and life. So another day was put away and done. 

I awoke Saturday morning and got dressed and coffeed up and ready for three or more hours of paper delivery. It was windy and cold and I wasn’t in the mood. I was upset still and kind of bummed about the holiday but trying to keep my spirits up. But my sister and I continued to deliver our papers (we have this system of green bags filled with 30 rolled/bagged papers and as we empty one bag we reach into the back and get another one). About three or four bags in Sandra went to grab a bag and it split spilling its papers all over the back seat of the car. “I’m not getting those” she said, “I’ll just use another bag.” “Wait, I said, I’ll use this empty one and put them in here, so I began stuffing papers into another bag, and for some reason we both looked back at the same time and…..

...there it lay. The lost and now found TV remote...

Sandra and I over joyed looked at each other and (very vocally) shouted “Yayayayayaa…oh yeah!” I had a feeling it was going to be in that bag – why I don’t know – we both did, sisters are like that sometimes. So we delivered the rest of the route and headed home. I had some errands to run before dinner and such so I did that. I came how with full bags ready to eat and decorate some more. And then as I plugged in the snowflake lights one side of the strand was out. Oh great….now this will be fun I mean who wouldn’t want to….

....unscrew the three tiny screws....

...and take off six CLEAR bands (you see them right?)....

Yeah I got the screws but the six clear bands had me puzzled – not to mention once you get the case open finding out which one of the 12 little buggers was out – and I wasn’t even sure I was on the right snowflake. But I was determined and past the point of contemplating just getting a new strand of lights. With the economy the way it is – it pays to do a little maintenance. So, with my niece’s help, I tried one and NO. Then I saw –  by some luck, blessing or whatever act of loving God who is sick of hearing me complain –  the second bulb looked a little grey so I tried it and……

"Voila!" Lights! Eight twinkling snowflakes.....

Very vocaly, I said, I screamed…”Oh YAYAYAYAY Yeah!” High five me mom!” I was overjoyed and just glad that no more setbacks were headed (YET). I hung the lights, tinsel and wreath and readied the Advent Wreath for Sunday. Finally, relaxed and at peace with the day. Thank YOU GOD it was a good day after all. Thank you.

Twinkling bright....

I know the stress is going to come and this month more than once, twice or thrice. But our Savior is on the Way – the drama is well worth the gift of this season. Peace, love and joy are on the way. No matter how bad the setbacks are — the spirit of Christmas is worth the wait. Ready with me and wait……wait for the blessed day. Wait with glad hearts, determined spirits and clear minds for the Savior’s Birthday!

Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah and MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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