{N}O Christmas Tree

>> Monday, December 30, 2013

In my home growing up, our Christmas tree and the other holiday décor came down New Year's Day.  It was the ritual for about as long as I can remember.

And it stayed that way until I had my own kids who were old enough to want to help, but young enough still that they weren't actually very helpful, at which point I started waiting until the first day back to school.  I guess it's been that way now for the last several years.

This year, I'd planned to go back to New year's Day and getting them to help, but boredom hit soon after we returned home from Christmasing in The Big City and so it all came down early this year.  Like, YESTERDAY!!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
your absence leaves great vacancy.
My house is back and that's a fact,
but I will miss your blatancy.

You take up room that I can't spare
Yet when you're gone, it seems so bare.
But Christmas tree, no Christmas tree
suits me for now just perfectly!
Original poetry by ME!
Jan 5, 2013

I'm always a little sad to take it all down, especially the tree, but it sure does open up the toyroom portion of the front porch.  The girls are usually a little sad about the annual "de-Christmas-izing" ritual, too, but seeing how they got a bunch of new Playmobil sets that could really use more spreading out, they weren't terribly sorry this year!!

Frozen

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Practicing Gratitude 12.26

>> Thursday, December 26, 2013

Thankful Thursday hosted in December by Iris @ Grace AloneThe last Thursday of 2013.  Amazing how suddenly the year is over, isn't it?!

I thought it would be interesting to go through all my TT posts from the past year and pull one item from each post to share this last Thursday of the year.  Sometimes I feel a bit like a broken record ~ saying I'm thankful for the same things over and over again, week after week ~ so it was good to see there has been some variety over the year!!

This past year, I've been thankful for things like:

  • God's promise to go with me into the unknown future and be with me always
  • the exercise of keeping track of my blessings has greatly improved my contentment level
  • the woodstove and my footbags ~ essential for winter survival up on the Canadian prairies!!
  • evenings with friends and laughter
  • I'm treated to a hot breakfast cooked by my husband almost every Saturday
  • being able to see and appreciate the beauty of my least-favourite season
  • my husband is always on my side, even when he's helping me see an error in my thinking or suggesting I correct my attitude or behavior 
  • my husband makes it as easy on me as possible to have people over by helping out when I feel like there are too many things that need to happen before they arrive
  • a tax-time job I enjoy
  • last winter was the first time I remember the season not affecting my mood and feelings about life
  • a husband who consistently lets me know he still finds me attractive, even after almost 16 years of marriage, two kids, and several (ahem) excess pounds...
  • summer songbirds
  • I think I can safely say the girls are still each other's best friend
  • being able to relax and enjoy hosting friends for supper, even though I'd completely forgotten I'd invited them and wasn't reminded until they showed up!
  • I enjoy having the girls at home and don't dread the two months without school
  • our first ballgame as a family
  • a "new-to-us" camper that stays set up permanently, and has a bathroom!!
  • a cram-packed summer
  • PERFECT weather for our annual week at the beach
  • the sense of independence and responsibility the girls are developing now that they can tell time, bike to town to visit their friends for a few hours, and take some change to visit the little store for treats
  • a healthy and positive outlook on aging
  • The Man didn't suffer any ill effects of working construction on the two very hottest days of the year
  • our new church has a middle school youth group that Mack loves to attend
  • my piano key repair was a factory recall issue and cost me an hour of labour only, despite my piano being over 10 years old
  • my husband loves gardening
  • that wonderful exhaustion that follows a long, hard day of getting things done around the house and yard
  • being a stay-at-home mom means I'm there when the girls get off the bus after school and need a shoulder to cry on after a tough day
  • good winter walking boots
  • AJ gave her graphic novel Bible to a little friend at school who claimed their home didn't have any Bibles
  • I may not be able to take material possessions with me when I die, but I can't take my problems with me either!
  • feeling welcomed and wanted at a new church were we really didn't know anyone when we first started attending
  • a Sunday spent with new and old friends
  • my first Community Band concert
  • Mack got to lead a little friend to Christ
  • and of course, celebrating Christmas with family ♥
This year has had its ups and downs, to be sure, but through it all, making a point of looking for and recording just some of the many reasons to still be grateful have been so essential to striving towards and maintaining a positive outlook on life.  I look forward to the coming year and counting many more blessings, no matter our circumstances!

snow globe 2
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The Best Possible Gift

>> Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I thoroughly enjoyed this year's Revive Our Hearts Christmas series, "My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation."  I love the amazing way this ancient story can be made new every year, despite the words always being the same.  God's Word truly is the LIVING Word!  I'd encourage you to check out the entire series if you want to recapture the wonder and awe of the story of Emmanuel.

Several broadcasts ago, host Nancy Leigh DeMoss said something that stuck with me because it speaks to an aspect of the story that has become so significant to me over the last several years.  She quoted Frederic Farrar, a 19th century Bible commentator, who wrote:

"As the East catches at sunset the colours of the West,
so Bethlehem is a prelude to Calvary,
and even the Infant’s cradle is tinged with a crimson reflection
from the Redeemer’s cross.”
He came to die.  He was born specifically so He could die.  For us.  To offer us the gift of salvation, to offer Himself in our place to take our punishment; an advocate for us in the Heavenly court where we are justly accused and stand guilty before a holy, perfect God.

So that we can stand there, too ~ forgiven, redeemed by His blood, justified by faith in Him.  Absolutely mind-blowing and incredible.


Have a wonderful Christmas,
my friends,
and may this knowledge give you new peace and joy this season and in the time to come.

Manger

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Practicing Gratitude 12.19

>> Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thankful Thursday hosted in December by Iris @ Grace AloneSo? How close to "ready for Christmas" is everyone??

I sometimes reflect on that statement and wish it didn't always mean accomplishing all those zillion things we insist on doing, but aren't really necessary and/or have little to do with commemorating and celebrating Christ's birth.  You know, the decorating, the tree-trimming, the wish list-making, the gift-buying, the stressing about not being able to find anything that's on other people's lists, the trouble finding that perfect something for a special someone, the socially obligatory gift-buying, the Christmas card-writing, the gift-wrapping, the goodie-baking, the stocking-stuffing, the arrangement-making logistics, the packing and travelling, the fancy dinner-making...

It's all just fluff.

So many times the "festivities" just make us tense and decidedly UN-Christmas-spirit-y, and yet somehow Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without it all, either.  Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas. I'm so thankful we have great reason to celebrate extravagantly every year.  And I love all most of everything that customarily goes with it.

But I'm also grateful that most of the aforementioned
things have been taken care of already!  :)

And I'm really thankful for great Advent devotionals like this one that keep refocusing my heart each day on what's truly important about this month.

I'm thankful for the glow of Christmas lights in the dark front porch/toy room where I have my morning alone time with God each day.  And that I can read the Advent readings with just their cheery light.  (I have to turn on the room lights to read my Bible and write in my journal!)

I'm grateful the days will start getting longer soon.  To me, it's so fitting that the celebration of the Light of the World's coming is at the darkest part of the year and that afterwards, the daylight hours begin to lengthen.  It's beautiful, really.

I'm thankful for the families with which to celebrate ~ church, biological, and married-into.  And that my biological and married-into families are PART of my Church family!  What a privilege!!

Speaking of privileges... I'm so grateful Mack could introduce a friend to God on Monday night after youth.  It's such an incredible blessing and inspiration to see my daughter's enthusiasm not only for her own relationship with her Savior, but for helping others see and want Him, too.  She truly has the heart of a missionary.  She is quick to listen to the secret fears and hurts of others and to encourage them to look to Him for healing and peace.

Despite the hustle and bustle and the things that aggravate me about the weeks leading up to the holiday and all its frenzy, there are so many reasons and things to be grateful for.

Three Kings 2  * Click the button at the top of the post to visit our hostess and other thankful bloggers.

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Bells of Hope

>> Sunday, December 15, 2013

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.  One year ago, an elementary school in Connecticut was visited by a deranged young man who shot and killed 28 children and teachers.

The Sunday after that horrific event, our pastor gave us a brief history of the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."  It was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas day, 1863.  His son, Charles Appleton Longfellow, who'd joined the Union cause in the Civil War without his father's blessing, had been severely wounded in battle the month before, and Longfellow's wife, Frances, had been killed in an accidental fire some short time before that.  Longfellow, understandably, felt that evil in this world had the upper hand.

But He knew God.  He knew God was faithful and would keep His promises.  He knew God was "working all things together for the good of those who love Him..."

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

It's not hard to become overwhelmed by reports of evil and suffering in this world.  The Wrong is prevailing right now and it's sometimes difficult NOT to fear the future, anxiously supposing how much worse things will get in our lifetime.  But surely, if God's Word is true, then no matter what happens to us and in the world around us this Christmas season or any other, the message of Longfellow's bells still brings hope ~ a hope that spreads in us, and from generation to generation.

Because Christ is our Hope.  And as we celebrate and commemorate His first coming, we can also joyfully look forward to His second.  He is good and He is faithful; He keeps His promises.  He WILL prevail.  And all WILL be right in eternity.

A certain video has been popping up the last few days and it's great evidence that even in the most horrific circumstances, on the darkest of days, evil may appear to have the upper hand, but is never the ultimate victor.


The bells Wadsworth heard on Christmas day over a hundred years ago are still very much alive and ringing.

Christmas Lights

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Friday Christmas Funny

>> Friday, December 13, 2013

I love Christmas cartoons.  Actually, I just love cartoons, period!  It probably surprises no one that Calvin & Hobbes is my favourite.  I love the wit, the imagination, the vocabulary...

This one gets me every time. (I think it's his dad's talent for sarcasm that really speaks to me in this one!)


Happy second-last Friday before Christmas!!


Elf

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The Christmas Earrings

>> Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I change my earrings only once a year.

For 11 months each year, I wear simple, brushed stainless steel "huggies" and small, square, white gold studs.  (Yes, I have two extraneous holes per lobe. It was trendy at one point in time, honest!)  But every December, I exchange the huggies for a very special pair of earrings...

Eons ago, after my one and only year of university, I got my first job at The Big City's première electronics store, where I stayed for almost five years. Initially, I worked as a cashier/switchboard operator, and before the days of computer automation, that was a pretty demanding job. Especially in December!

In those days ~ and perhaps even now if there haven't been too many renovations in the intervening years ~ the cashier's counter extended into the auto electronics section of the store and was shared with the automotive installation desk.  The door to the installation garage was beside that section of the counter and as a result, the cashiers and auto-installers saw a lot of each other.

One of those installers was an older Vietnamese immigrant, who was working hard to send money to his family back home in hopes that one day they would be able to join him in Canada.  After a few years of working his full-time job in the installation department, he lobbied successfully to get the store's after-hours cleaning contract as well.  He was a small, sweet man with a somewhat limited command of the English language and a very strong accent.

The store was open till 9 every night during the week, and until I moved up into the administrative offices, I worked two or three evenings every week.  Those were usually relatively slow hours at the store and since "Coon" was there every evening to clean, we often got to visit a little here and there.  He was difficult to understand and tended not to talk much because he knew his communication skills were limited, but as time progressed, I gradually got to know a little more about him ~ his family, his time as a fighter pilot in the Vietnam war, and his coming to Canada.

Much of his story I've already forgotten, but he had not had an easy life, by any stretch of the imagination.  Yet his attitude remained positive.  It was unusual to hear him talk about the harder things he'd experienced because he made a conscientious effort to speak of his hopes rather than his suffering.

One night in early December after we'd all left, he happened across a jewelers' box in the parking lot just outside the installation garage door.  He brought it to the cash counter the next morning and showed us the beautiful Christmas tree earrings nestled on black velvet inside.  Undoubtedly they'd been dropped by a customer and since they were personalized with birthstones, we imagined someone would be inquiring about them.  The store manager instructed us to keep the earrings at the desk until Christmas.  No one ever called.

On Boxing Day, the height of shopping frenzy up here in Canada, the earrings were returned to Coon towards the end of the day, since he'd been the one who found them.  He carried them around with him until closing and as we breathed a sigh of relief and began cashing out our tills after the doors had been locked, he shyly approached me and handed me the box.  In his accented, broken English, he said he wanted me to have them.  I knew his wife had passed away years earlier and he had only sons back in Vietnam, but I protested and suggested he keep them for a relative or a future daughter-in-law.

With glistening eyes, he pushed them back across the counter to me and said, "No, they are for you.  If I had had a daughter, I would have wanted her to be just like you."

And so they became mine, these "daughter's pride"-style Christmas tree earrings from a lonely immigrant who had no daughter, and certainly no spare change to spend on gifts for co-workers.  These Christmas tree earrings with three coloured gemstones in each, which ~ if not the exact ones ~ happen to fairly closely match the birthstones of myself, my mom, and my dad.


I am honoured to wear them every December and each time I put them on for the first time, I think of my old friend Cuong ~ whose name we could never really pronounce properly ~ and silently wish him a merry Christmas.

Stacked Presents

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Practicing Gratitude 12.5

>> Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday hosted in December by Iris @ Grace AloneMy goodness, this week has positively FLOWN by!  Normally, I write my Thankful posts on Wednesdays, but time just slipped away from me this time.

It's been a good week.  I know the tone of my last two Thankful Thursday posts was a little depressing ~ my apologies!  These times come and they go (very thankful for the "going" part!!) and I thought it especially important to continue practicing voicing gratitude despite how I felt.

But this week I'm thankful for...

  • A better attitude!!
  • Hot coffee first thing in the morning, a woodstove-warmed home.  And indoor plumbing!  (can't even imagine having to use an outdoor biffy this time of year, especially at night!!)
  • Continuing our Jesse Tree tradition (we started a little early this time so the readings would fit around our holidays and end on the day we will celebrate Christmas here at home)
  • Laughing with my husband.
  • Way more stuff than we have room for.  (Argh!)
  • NEW BOOTS!  Same model as shown in the link, but uglier colours, unfortunately.  I got them on sale though, and they're warm with heavy-duty treads, so I should be able to put on the miles for another few of winters!
  • An invitation after church on Sunday to join the associate pastor and his family for lunch at one of the local restaurants.
  • Which he paid for!
  • Being joined by a few other people from the church, and getting to know them a little better.
  • Spending Sunday evening with old friends whom we've tried unsuccessfully to get together with for almost two months already!
  • A very vocal, vehemently anti-religion friend wants to come to a local carolling service with me.
  • A weekly grocery trip that cost me less than $40!!
  • Daughters who've learned the importance of obedience and to respect authority.
  • Cheery glow of Christmas tree lights in the dark winter mornings.
  • My first Community Band concert last night, which went quite well, despite a few mistakes.
  • A belated birthday present that I'm looking forward to enjoying daily in the new year
And that's just a small sampling from my gratitude journal!!  I am indeed a blessed woman.  What are you thankful for today?


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WW: Memories of Christmas 2008

>> Wednesday, December 4, 2013



My favourite Christmas picture. EVER.

More Wordless Wednesday here.


Frozen

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It's here, it's here!!

>> Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy December

Woo-hoo, now I'm finally allowed to pull out the Christmas decorations
and turn on the music!!  ;)

Tangled Lights

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