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Favorite Christmas Traditions

9 Dec

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It’s December 8, and it is COLD outside.  Well, for Texas it is.  The high twenties this morning has been our low in the past two years, but hang on it will be in the seventies by Sunday, and that’s what I love about Texas.  We don’t have to freeze too long.

It’s cold.  I’m snuggled up with my cup of coffee and just wanted to  sit here and ponder and savor all the things I can remember that we do or have done in my family over the years, so I’ll start with traditions from my childhood.

Do you have Christmas traditions?  I have so many.  One of my favorites is Christmas cards.  Yes it seems there are fewer and fewer each year with Facebook and iPhones, and let’s face it – it takes time to sit down and address Christmas cards and for many of them to add a sweet note inside, and they are expensive even when we buy them on sale, and then there is the postage.

Why are Christmas cards so special to us?

For many years now as the cards come in they are placed on our kitchen mini-blinds.  They stay up usually for several months into late February or early March.

After Christmas we will pull a card each time we sit down to eat.  If we have company we ask them to pull a card.  We pray over that family.  Last year I added another step to that tradition.  I bought a board and now I pin the cards to that board and it stays on our fire place heart so we can continue to pray for all at once that are on that when we go into that room.  It’s in a back den so we don’t visit it every day.  Here is a picture of that board with our cards from 2015:

 

Other traditions:

Christmas Ornaments – I’ve always given the kids a Christmas ornament  from Hallmark, and now the grandkids and our daughter and son in love.  I may have to change it up a bit because well we are anxiously awaiting the birth of twin boys so that will make three in my son’s family.  Not sure I want to buy three ornaments just alike to go on their tree. I usually stuff their ornaments in their stocking.

Stockings 

I guess today children would look at a stocking filled with nuts and fruits as something not to get, but that is what my middle sister and I got in our stockings.    Today I find myself filling up the little kids stockings with caps, toys, toothbrushes, gum, and any other little thing I can think of. The big kids usually get shaving supplies and gift cards and maybe some kind of fancy candy.

Santa Claus

There is always stuff from Santa at this house even for the adult kids.  Even the married kids get Santa under the tree to this day.  Yes there are wrapped gifts, but Santa brings some nice stuff.

Jesus Birthday Cake

When the kids were smaller we used to have a birthday cake for Jesus, but I only did that a few times.  Usually though there is a birthday cake for our son-in-love because December 25 is also his birthday.

The Lord’s Prayer

Always, always at our Thanksgiving and Christmas tables my side of the family joined hands and recited The Lord’s Prayer.  We still do when we get together.  I can even remember reciting it at seven years old at my Dad’s family tables.

 

A New Dessert Recipe

I usually take a new dessert to my side of the family.  They laugh because I’ll bring that and maybe a new veggie recipe and then I make them make it after that if they want it and they usually do.

Christmas Eve with Husband’s Family

Even since we married 47 years ago we celebrate on Christmas Eve with my husband’s family.  We used to do it at his Mom’s house, but several years ago we started rotating with his two sisters so it’s at our house every three years.

 

Christmas Eve Evening Games – We love this and the adult kids do to, and now the grandsons.  Last year the two year old had a ball and I’m sure the other two year old this year will too.  We have done all sorts of things from scavenger hunts to remote cars.  We have a special surprise this year and I can’t share because it’s always a surprise and always the kids pair up as couples or girls against boys, and we give prizes.

Christmas Morning Breakfast – I usually have a Christmas morning breakfast.  It is a celebration of Jesus’ birthday but also our son-in-laws.  I vary each year, but generally we always have a Breakfast Sausage Casserole my friend Carrie gave me and I’ll add another casserole, cinnamon rolls, fruits or whatever else seems special for the year.

Christmas Lunch With My Family – Most years we do lunch with my family, but seems we always end up one place rather than rotate.

So what are some of you favorite Christmas traditions?  I’d love to hear you share.

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Advent – Week 3 – The Joy of Christmas

18 Dec

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I am joining Kate Motaung today, and the word is our choice.  How can I not choose my favorite word – JOY?  It’s the last five-minute Friday of the year. Where did 2015 go?  Now to write for five minutes.

This week of Advent is about the joy we have because Christ entered the world.  That is what Christmas is all about – Jesus’ birth and Jesus in us  -not only at Christmas but every moment.  Jesus is our joy and without Him I am not sure how you hang on to joy.  I know I could not.

How do we smile through tears?  How do we find joy during storms?  How do we keep Christmas joy in the hustle and bustle of the season or in the midst of pain and turmoil, or when there is no money to buy the kids presents?  It’s not about presents, it’s about having Him present in our lives, and walking in joy no matter what season we are in.  As the song goes, He is with us ALWAYS.

Have you lost your joy?  Beth Moore tells us it’s right where we left it – in His presence.  She says to anticipate it, expect it and share it.

Jesus talked about rejoicing to His disciples in John 16:24 that even though He was leaving them and they would be distressed that their joy would be complete when He returned.  Anticipate His return, expect it and share it.

Philippians 4:4 (NLT)  tells us to ALWAYS  be full of joy in the Lord. I and   1 Thess 5:18 says to rejoice ALWAYS give thanks in ALL circumstances.  There is no sometimes, tomorrow, next year when things are better.  The verses tell us to ALWAYS be full of joy and to ALWAYS give thanks no matter what season of life we are in.

Jesus is our JOY!  Seek the joy of knowing Him this Christmas.

JOY to the world because the Lord has come!

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REFLECTING ON A NOT SO BUSY, HURRIED CHRISTMAS’

11 Dec

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Today has been a time of reflection because well that’s the word we are writing 5 minutes about on Kate Matoung.

I sit here this morning with my 2-year old grandson who spent the night.  As soon as we walked in the dark den, I asked him if he wanted me to turn on the Christmas tree lights.  He did, and I paused to show him a couple of ornaments with Santa kneeling down worshiping Baby Jesus.

This time of the year we can get so burdened – burdened with loss of loved ones and burdened with all that we as women are doing to make our homes and hearts ready for Christmas.  I even get a little teary eyed putting up the tree each year because many of my ornaments were from Mom, and that little gold one up near the top is an ornament my baby sister made me one Christmas with Mom, Dad and us three girls when we were little.  I’ll get teary eyed in a bit when I put that beautiful Avon Christmas nativity set my Mom gave me that fills up the top of our piano.  But God has blessed me with precious memories, and I want to bless my family with memories when I am gone.

I’m not reflecting this morning on busy, hurried, frantic Christmas’.  This year is different.  I’ve slowed down and there is still much to do,BUT I’m savoring it all – taking it in and keeping it about Him.  My husband even commented about the tree and how it reflects Him and as he prayed the other night He asked God to bless others as they come to the house and see it.  I found some beautiful ribbon at Hobby Lobby with the names of Jesus, and have so many ornaments now that say peace, and faith and joy and a couple of crowns and lots of crosses.

As you take some time to worship with Him in the morning while looking at your tree, think on the things that keep Him in Christmas, think of the things you “get” to do, not what you have to do.  We “get” to do Christmas.  We “get” to bless others.  We “get” to wake up each morning.  We “get” to celebrate another year of Jesus’ birth.

Reflect this year on whose you are and spend time with family and friends.  One thing I’ve learned someone we love can be gone in an unexpected moment.  Make some memories this year.  Love like you’ve never loved before.

Merry Christmas as you reflect on what is important.

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Advent – Week 2 – Peace

8 Dec

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Not only are we in week 2 of Advent, but the calendar continues to count down to Christmas.  I love it.  I love every single thing about it.   I love the cards, the recipes, the decorations, the shopping, the cooking, the Hallmark Christmas movies, the Christmas music, wrapping gifts, and last week watching our two-year old grandson smile when I said Nanna and PaPa bought you presents for Christmas and hear him say Christmas.  Confession – No gifts wrapped yet, but some were put in the mail yesterday for sweet friends.

The older I grow, and the more we lose dear loved one, the more special Christmas becomes.  Actually, every single day becomes more special.  We don’t get do-overs, but oh how I wish we did so I live for each moment, each day to savor with loved ones.

I know this time of the year can be hard for so many.   Trust me I have been there.  The first year my Dad died I so dreaded Christmas and having all my family here and Mom coming in that door without him.  Oh it was tough for a moment, but she brought angel pins for us 3 girls, one of my sister’s wrote a poem (Dad always did) and gave each of the grandchildren one of Dad’s clocks and read the poem.

In reading about Advent this year, I learned that the wreath represents God’s never-ending love for you and me.  The evergreens represent His gift to us of eternal life.  The candles remind us Jesus is the Light of the World.This week of advent represents peace.  I did not know until I started researching that Shalom means peace.  How cool is that?  Jesus came to be the Prince of Peace.

Blog - Isaiah 96

SHALOM!

 

In CHRIST alone at Christmas!

13 Dec

Christmas is ALMOST here – my most favorite time of the year.  I love, love, love every moment of it. I look forward to each Christmas with an expectancy.   You can find me usually before Thanksgiving addressing cards.  Yes, I still send cards.  I love receiving cards.  The day after Thanksgiving I mail cards, and start decorating and shopping.  I  try my best to make it special for my family, work really hard to keep Jesus’ birth at the forefront of our celebration.

This year that joy was taken from me.  We started an unexpected and unwanted remodeling project (due to foundation shifting) that was supposed to be finished in nine days—long before Thanksgiving. Today it is December 13, and we still have days the remodelers don’t show even though they are scheduled. I want to be angry and sometimes I am for a bit, but trying to remain Christ-like through this ordeal. I am trying to understand why. None of it makes sense—why do people make promises and don’t keep them? During a remodeling project things happen—pipes break, a refrigerator might not fit, the faucets leak behind the washer, treasures are broken, furniture scratched, walls are ruined, and the list just keeps growing.

In the book Greater, Pastor Furtick tells us about Elisha and how “He looked at every obstacle as an opportunity that God is greater than the confines of any situation.” It has been one obstacle after another during this remodel, but each one I count as a blessing. Walls scratched get new paint, broken pipes are new and won’t break and flood during a cold winter, broken things mean less clutter, days the remodelers don’t show give me time to unpack and get ready to re-pack for carpet. God is greater than this remodel—once it’s finished it will be beautiful and clean, and it will glorify Him.

If remodeling weren’t enough, Mom was in the hospital for a week with sepsis, pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and a UTI they can’t kill, and is now back at the nursing home very ill on very strong IV antibiotics, and we don’t know if she will pull through. “God is greater than the confines of any situation” and any illness!

I have been asking God why, why at my favorite time of the year, is all of this happening? After all, aren’t I closer to God than I have ever been? I have been in Bible studies all year, taking baby steps and growing through I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer, Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, and now Greater by Pastor Steven Furtick, and I even participated in the study on the book of John so I could stay in the Word during the summer.  I felt Him calling me to do more than just be “good enough” so I responded to that call to lead a group during this study and get out of my comfort zone, my mediocrity, and throw down that plow of fear because, like Elisha, I am not able, but available. So I took that very tiny baby step of faith to lead a group.

So WHAT’S UP GOD????? I am studying the book Greater with thousands of ladies on Melissa Taylor’s Online Bible Studies. Pastor Furtick talks about God “uprooting us from the tyranny of the familiar, shattering the monotonous life and taking us on an adventure.” Is this an adventure? Are You uprooting me from the familiar? My whole life has changed in one year.  Did I mention I retired last December?  I read in the book where it says, “whatever He calls you to do is the greatest thing you can be doing at that moment”. WOW!  As my friend Donna Bostick says, “BAM, BAM, BAM.”

I have sat in tears at times—tears driving from the laundromat because my washer is in the den, tears because I feel such a responsibility for Mom, tears because these remodelers are still in my life and I need to be with mom, tears because 43 years of traditions are null and void this year, tears because I want to decorate, I want to shop, and I want my house to look nice for the family that will be here Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and tears because I am so tired. The greatest thing I can do at this moment, I believe, is to love on my mama and love on women all over the world in Jesus’ name. He knew. He knew that Mom would be so ill. He knew, He knew remodelers never finish on time and unexpected things would happen and He knew, He knew that I needed to be in this study because the house would be in utter chaos, and I could run to people who love me. He knew I needed prayer and encouragement to deal with all this—prayer from all our team leaders and showers of love, blessings, and words of encouragement. He knew I would have strength for little else than what I am doing this moment. How could I be shopping, decorating, and doing all those other things this year? I couldn’t. He knows that through all of this “stuff” that next year Christmas will be more special than it has ever been. He knew I wanted to write so He has sent me to these studies where I learned about blogs, and found some time (FINALLY) away from home this weekend in His presence for a few hours. So all I can do at this moment is take baby steps (Bible study, take care of Mom, and hopefully finish this very first blog), and in between times I get a few things unpacked (so I can start packing up the other rooms for new carpet, which may or may not happen before Christmas). In the in-between times I spend hours in this study and praying.

Uprooted? I think so. Uprooted from a filthy house, uprooted from the mediocrity of not reading my Bible like I should, uprooted to minister to women, and uprooted to get rid of old tile, carpet, and kitchen countertops that were long overdue replacing. Yes, I was uprooted and praise God for that. I read in Greater that “His greatest ambition in leading you into greater things isn’t that you would know what to do. It’s that you would know who He is”. WOW! What a nugget in that phrase—“to know who He is”.

So what has God shown me this Christmas, in this chaotic time? I could sit here listening to the enemy and whine and complain and say, “poor me,” but instead I have chosen to DIG DITCHES as Pastor Furtick calls it. One way to dig ditches is to change my words, my expressions, my thoughts, and my actions, using words of affirmation and faith, rather than words of hopelessness as I look over the mess—the disaster that is currently there will one day be beautiful if I keep my focus on Him. God has shown me that I can be Greater, not great and He is showing me daily who He is. I am digging ditches by choosing to have blessed thoughts rather than sad thoughts when I see no tree, no lights, no stockings, and a Mom who is suffering. Digging ditches and cleaning out clutter to donate that other families can use.  Digging those ditches and praising God when I walk in my kitchen and see that one candle that reminds me “who He is”—“He is the Light of this world and He is Christmas.” That one candle, a few plates, and a couple of things I picked up last week at a drug store are the only decorations I can find right now.  I look at those and am reminded that “He is my PEACE and He is my JOY” (my favorite word). I know that every great thing and every small thing in my life are blessings from Him and are the result of His most amazing grace and love. NOEL is written on one of those treasures I bought.  Do you know what it means?  I am ashamed to say I didn’t so I looked it up – it means CHRISTmas!  BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!

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So what am I enjoying this Christmas, when I can’t decorate each and every room, nor time to shop for my loved ones? I’m enjoying the simple things, the blessings only He can give. The blessing of using what little “widow’s oil” I have to glorify Him through leading a wonderful group of women, who will in turn bless others and show His love. I am truly experiencing what the joy of Christmas is all about this year and that’s to know who He is and pray for others to know Him too. It’s about Him, about His love, His blessings, His peace, and His joy! It’s about the simple things that God has blessed us with—not the presents under the tree but HIS PRESENCE, the gift of Him.  It’s not about trees, decorations, or stress—it’s about the things that build memories of who He is. It’s about the blessings, the things that God has given to bless our lives in “BIG” ways, but we miss them as we hurry through the season that is really the most special time of the year—it’s NOEL, it’s Christmas, it’s joyous, it’s the season during which we were sent the Greatest Gift on Earth.

Here are a few of the simple things that God has given me that I am relishing and enjoying this year:

My Family (my husband holding my hand or giving me hugs, my son and daughter and their spouses calling or emailing to see how things are going and stopping by to help pack, move furniture, and even go sit with me and Mom)
Visiting and loving on Mom, and the wonderful blessing that she still recognizes me as her daughter and knows my name.
A Bible study group where I can use my “widow’s oil” to love on, pray for, and touch women all over the world. That little “oil” can grow and grow to be much as lives are touched and they touch other lives
Christmas cards arriving from family and friends with beautiful uplifting notes and messages and the joy in hanging them up on my kitchen mini-blinds and awaiting the long tradition our family has had of choosing one card each time we sit down to eat and we re-read that card and lift that family in prayer.
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A simple manger scene printed from my computer hanging on my refrigerator
A simple candle and displays in my kitchen reminding me what Christmas is about: “to know who He is”—the candle reflecting to me that “He is the Light of the world” and my few decorations that remind me “He is my peace and my joy,” and the wonder of those few things reminding me to remember “In Christ alone”.
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Lessons I am teaching my grown children, that I can have joy in His presence no matter the circumstances. Because of Him I can face today and I can face tomorrow—because He LIVES!
A couple of Christmas plates hanging in the kitchen giving a bit of beauty in an ugly mess
Christmas coffee cups to savor coffee each morning with my Bible study leaders and group or hot chocolate in the evening with my husband
A new stove after five weeks of not having one with soup on the burner, and new pipes with a working washer and dryer
New tile floors to hear the pitter patter of small feet of future grandchildren I am praying for
The thought of a clean, remodeled home where I can entertain friends and family and use God’s house to glorify Him
That just like the widow’s oil—little is much and as the Greater book says “He is personally watching over the intricacies of my life”
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JOY,  JOY,  JOY to you this Christmas!

Debbie

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