There's Mail From Mom!

Wouldn't it be nice to have a letter from mom in the mailbox each time you checked it? Here's a place to check your mailbox for a heart-to-heart talk with mom...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cardinal in snow

Christmas day is over...but the Christmas season is not over for me.  I begin the days of Christmas as soon as Christmas is over.  I think the technical term for it is ephiphany.  Noah Webster's definition of ephiphany in 1829 was
EPIPH'ANY, n. [Gr. appearance; to appear.] A christian festival celebrated on the sixth day of January, the twelfth day after Christmas, in commemoration of the appearance of our Savior to the magians or philosophers of the East, who came to adore him with presents; or as others maintain, to commemorate the appearance of the star to the magians, or the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Jerome and Chrysostom take the epiphany to be the day of our Savior's baptism, when a voice from heaven declared, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." The Greek fathers use the word for the appearance of christ in the world, the sense in which Paul used the word. 2 Tim. 1.10.
  The 1913 edition defined ephiphany as this:
[F. ├ępiphanie, L. epiphania, Gr. 'epifa`nia (sc. (?)
  1. An appearance, or a becoming manifest.
    Whom but just before they beheld transfigured and in a glorious epiphany upon the mount. Jer. Taylor.
    An epic poet, if ever such a difficult birth should make its epiphany in Paris. De Quincey.
  2. A church festival celebrated on the 6th of January, the twelfth day after Christmas, in commemoration of the visit of the Magi of the East to Bethlehem, to see and worship the child Jesus; or, as others maintain, to commemorate the appearance of the star to the Magi, symbolizing the manifestation of Christ to the Gentles; Twelfthtide.
 I like the mention of it symbolizing the manifestion of Christ to the Gentiles--that's me!
 The celebration of ephiphany where the  The 12 days of Christmas was taken from--a gift given on each day.  At one time I celebrated the twelfth day of Christmas (January 6th) with a winter tea at my house.  I still love the idea of having a winter tea in celebration of the culmination of the celebration of Jesus' birth.
 I would make the tea Victorian and add a snow theme to it.  I love stringing white Christmas lights on white fleece, hanging crystal snowflakes, serving white chocolate cocoa along with the tea, making beautiful white snowflake cookies with crystal sugar on them and having snowmen everywhere...oh, I'm getting in the mood just thinking about it!
There are some wonderful ideas out there that can get you enthused~ here's one I found:

snow tea party

  You can even spin off of other party themes (this one is a wedding) and make it work for you.

We do make the wise men move across the living room to show up on January 6th.  It's important they get to be a part of the living nativity. 
  This year I have a desire to give something to someone each day between now and the 6th of January.  The last few days I wanted to give myself to my family that got together after Christmas to celebrate.  I had a wonderful time making bread bowls with my grandchildren and decorating sugar cookies with them.
 Today's gift was to give myself extra time with the Lord--a very refreshing gift to myself.  Although I wanted it to be an act of worship toward Him, the gift ended up being for me--He always gives when we worship Him in spirit and in truth.  I was in desperate need of a refill in my spiritual tank and I'm so thankful for today's gift.
  I pray that each day between now and the end of ephiphany that I will listen very carefully to His voice and give to others exactly what He desires me to give.  That each gift will be from Him to others using me as His instrument.
  Winter is a wonderful time--let's use it to bring honor and glory to His wonderful name and keep on giving even though Christmas Day is now history!


Christmas Day....It's here! The day we've all been working toward, waiting for and celebrating for 25 full days!
The Lord has SO blessed us this year and it's benefits were obvious with our table full of food, friends and family yesterday. This morning as my children and husband showered me with love and gifts.
We had two wonderful services at church and their was a special, special spirit tonight as we gathered to honor the Lord on His day, the Lord's day with a bonus---it was Christmas day!
As I set in church listening to the message I thought of the difference between a Christian and a disciple. A Christian has received Christ as Saviour but many times has not made that full surrender of will to follow Him whatever He chooses. A disciple has laid his life at the Saviour's feet and said, "Not my will, but thine be done."
A Christian works Christ and His church into their schedule. A disciple has Christ as his life and all his life works around Christ and his life fits into Christ's plan and schedule for him.
I thought of the sweet, wonderful characters of the Christmas story and thanked the Lord that they were disciples.
Mary when she said, " Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word " and Joseph when he "being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife."
I thought of the young couple when they did as the government demanded and in doing so fulfilled prophecy!
I thought of the shepherds who huried to see the Saviour the angels told them had been born. I thought of the wise men who came to worship the Lord Jesus. I'm so thankful that each of them laid aside their own plans and desires to do what the Lord wanted them to do.
As I begin celebrating the 12 days of Christmas (through January 6th) I make plans on those things I desire to give to the Lord in the next year. I have already started my list and it involves being His disciple--more yielded I pray, Father!
On this day when we celebrate God's gift to us may each of us kneel before Him in worship and give Him the gift of ourselves and our lives.
Christmas Eve....Day # 24 of advent! Today was a wonderful day spent with family and friends. We decided to have our big Christmas dinner today so that we didn't try to squeeze too much into the Lord's Day tomorrow!
Such a wonderful time with a full table and all the blessings that the Lord has given us.
Today made me think of relationships. If our first and most important relationship out or order than none of the rest of our relationships can be right.
Today, on the eve of the Lord Jesus Christ's (God in the flesh) birthday celebration I pray that each and every one of my friends and family have entered into a personal relationship with Him.
He will never leave, forsake or fail us--other relationships can and will, but even though we fail Him, He will never fail us.
If you don't know Him I pray that tonight on this very special night you will turn to Him, confess yourself a sinner and receive His forgiveness and healing of being a sinner and of all your sins. He can and will save you.
Once He has entered your life, nothing is the same--all things are new and it transforms every other relationship you have in your life to something new!
God bless each one of you! May your Christmas be blessed!
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Day # 23 of advent….
When my kids were little I’d be in the backyard hanging up diapers and clothes on the clothesline while one little one played in a wagon, another one was playing on the swingset, one of them might be hiding in the tall corn in the little garden we’d planted in the backyard and the baby was at my side in the stroller.
I don’t know how many times people would stop and commen...t on how sweet my life was, how well behaved my children were, how idyllic the scene was that they viewed each day as they walked by our house. I would think in my head when I thanked them, “Yes, it is, but let me tell you it takes a lot of work on my part!”
Today as I scrub bathrooms, make sure the tablecloth is pressed, have the kids get the luminaries ready, make up the gift boxes of goodies for my neighbors, make that last batch of cookies, pies, and mix together casseroles, I am having a wonderful, wonderful time! But tonight, when I collapse on the couch with my heat pad I’ll be reminding myself that this is a lot of work!
It’s worth every minute of it though to have someone pop in and say how good it smells, how pretty it looks, how lovely the candlelight and music is, how good the food is. In my heart I’ll be wishing that it puts a wonderful, wonderful memory of Christmas in their hearts. One they can’t forget it was so special. And that will make it worth all the work involved. If it makes my children’s future, my husband’s present, and draws our friends and family closer in our relationship--it is worth every minute of labor.
Someone has to be the dream-maker. Someone has to take it upon themselves to see to it that the children have stars in their eyes. Not from the abundance of gifts--from the abundance of love and time and heart poured into them. I pray that today you make someone’s dream of a perfect Christmas come true as a result of your labor. There is profit in all labor, you know! Merry two days before Christmas!
Day # 22 of advent! It's getting closer and closer! Our Mary and Joseph are on the edge of Bethlehem...we went out and finished up our Christmas shopping tonight.
Today I'm thinking about people's kindness during this season. Because we only have one vehicle we shop as a family. I bought something for my husband in one store and then went into another store and asked them if I could have of their bags to cover his gift with. The girls said "Sure", and acted thrilled to help me.
Then I was at KMart and told the young man I'd like my gift double bagged so my husband couldn't see it. He said, "How about a black bag?"
I said, "Now, wouldn't that be great?"
"Yes, it would," he said, and started putting my items in a black bag! Wonderful!
Everyone I asked for a little help today was so kind. (I even spent about an hour on the phone with customer support and both young men deserve special praise for their kindness and helpfulness.)
I had fun running around the store with items hid under my coat, and just prowling through Big Lots, KMart, Cato's, Dollar Tree and Krogers. I walked through Krogers feeling a little sad that it would be my last trip through the grocery all decked out for Christmas!
So here I am--tomorrow I clean my house, make casseroles and pies and get ready for the holiday to begin! So thankful for excited about my kids presents and company and cooking and candles and tables loaded with food and....(the list goes on and on!)
Day # 21 of advent....atmosphere! I love atmosphere and Christmas is full of it. This week I actually got out into some of the stores and it's as though they are dressed in their very best for Christmas.
When Gary worked in the Christian school at Bible Baptist Church in Parker City each year we would have a movie that we would watch together for the Christmas celebration. Gary and I got the ...wonderful job of going to Indianapolis and previewing it.
One year we got a babysitter so we could have a Christmas date. When we got to downtown Indianapolis where the office was for the Christian group that had the movies) it started snowing--huge snowflakes!
We were sitting in a little restaurant on the circle eating and looking out the window. There were white carriages pulled by horses taking people on rides in the snow. The windows decorated for Christmas had a special glow through the snow. It was like living a movie you had watched that made Christmas seem magical--but it was happening to me!
That's what I want to do for my family. Today I set up a special little scene for my husband when he came in from work. I'd been doing Christmas baking and set all my baked goods on the table, had John light the kerosene lamp, perked a fresh pot of coffee and had the good smells of supper cooking waiting for him.
His first remarks were about how nice it seemed in the house, how good it smelled and how wonderful the baked goods looked! Mission accomplished.
I'm thankful for all the people in my life, (and the places) that have set up a wonderful atmosphere for me to enjoy. I need to remember to pay that back as often as I can!
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day #20 of advent... Today's thought...being a child. I love being with children--especially during the Christmas season. I love their honesty, their wonder in the smallest things, their laughter and joy, and their tender emotions. I love playing with children and talking to children. My husband says it's because I never have grown up myself, and who knows? If so, I'll keep that quality!
One of the things I've always enjoyed at Christmas is pretending with my children. They are so full of imagination and so fun to pretend with!
At our house this time of year any mouse that comes into our house is killed by the nutcrackers! We've found more than one dead mouse surrounded by the nutcrackers in front of the open cabinet doors!
If a mess is left in the kitchen with fresh cookies on the counter and it happened during the night we know that the dolls have once again been making cookies and since rag dolls don't like to get messy they've left me the dishes!
Why just the other night I could hear whispers coming out of a big bag in my bedroom. I crept out of bed as quiet as I could to was little squeaky voices coming out of the bag that holds the three rag dolls.
"How," said one little voice, "Did we get to be real?"
"I think," said another tiny voice, "it is because we have a heart! See? There's a heart right here on my front! And it has writing on it! Put your ear right here next to my chest and you can hear my heart thumping!"
"Do you think," said the third little voice, "we are going to live in this bag for the rest of our lives?"
"Oh, surely not," said the first squeaky voice. "Surely, because we have hearts and are real, there's a little girl somewhere that will want us and love us!"
But wait, what am I telling this story on here for? This is for the little girls that are getting the rag dolls!
Thanks for playing a little Christmas playtime with Grandma Tami!
Day # 19 of the advent season....memories. What are the pleasant memories you have of Christmas' past? If you have them and you sit and think of them it might surprise you that it wasn't usually that great big gift that is your favorite memory.
It might be one of those "golden moments" in time when everyone got in a mood and totally enjoyed themselves. It might be when someone gave you their ...time and attention. It might be the wonderful mood or feeling it gave you when your family repeated a tradition each year.
I can be totally happy at Christmas just walking through a grocery store all decked out for the holiday. I love being with children at Christmas and talking with them. I love everyone getting in a happy holiday mood together, laughing, singing and talking together. I love trying to buy the gift that I think will possibly be the recipients favorite one!
Most of the things I love doing today are tied to a pleasant memory in my past. I think down deep I'm always hoping that in continuing the tradition of pleasant memories I'm making pleasant memories for future generations.
So, when I give art supplies to my grandson that likes to draw it's a memory of my Aunt Wanda keeping me in art supplies.
When I fill my Hoosier cabinet with retro decorations it is in memory of my Grandma's decorations.
When I tell the children stories about their dollies coming alive at night and making Christmas cookies in our kitchen it's in memory of a grandpa who kept us happy with stories.
Memories are a precious way to pass tradition of pleasant things on from one generation to the other. I want some day for my grandchildren to tell their children, "I remember when my grandma..." as an explanation of why they do something each Christmas!
Day # 18 of the advent season! we drove to church tonight I absolutely loved seeing all the houses that were lit up. Some elegant, some cheerful, some so neat, some not so neat. Some all one color, some icicles lights, some the new multicolor that are out this year, some large and some small--but all changed the whole look of the drive to church! Isn't it wonderful how the birth o...f Christ brings light into the world.
I'm a traditionalist and my entire world of Christmas lights outside is usually candlelight in luminarias on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. This year I've added some beautiful kerosene lamps to the porch and my husband and John added Christmas lights and greenery to the porch. (that's a first for us!) I must admit it looks wonderful.
When I think of the birth of Christ I think of how low and small the lighting must have been in a stable barn where he was born. Just a small light in a dark stable but the Light of the world was born there that night!
Then I think of the starry night sky that the shepherds were under that was suddenly flooded with the light of angels! I love sitting on the front porch steps in the winter and looking up at the night sky. I think shepherds must have done that a lot. I can't imagine the sky suddenly being filled with light and angels!
I think of the light of the star that led the wise men. It must have been a very special star with a very unique light.
In a few minutes I'll walk through my house and unplug and turn off the lights of Christmas. There are twinkling white lights mingled through the snow of the Christmas village and in the garland around my mirror. There are cheery multicolored lights in my Hoosier cabinet that is full of memories of all my Christmas pasts, there are the lights that cover my Christmas trees, there are the lights in our Bethlehem village and the campfire lights the shepherds have on their green hills, there are the Kerosene lanterns on the front porch and a candle on the mantle....lights out--but I'll go to bed and think on how each of the lights I've seen tonight are in celebration of the King of kings, the Lord of Lords and the Light of this world! And just as the wise men--because I've found Him I now should kneel down and worship Him!
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Day # 17 of the advent season! Being a servant...
Today was one of those days that I call a "chasing my tail" days. I never really decided what my problem was. At 10:00 o'clock I was still walking around feeling "muddled" in my bedroom asking myself why I was in my bedroom with a package of frozen pork chops!
The first few hours of my day I received many thoughts that were very full of self... pity. My list exceeded my day and I was running frantically from one thing on the list to the other and getting nothing accomplished! How could people expect so much from me? Who ever thought of all these things to do at Christmas anyway? Was I supposed to do everything around here?
I would like to blame the devil but really it was my flesh a lot more than the devil. Then I realized that I was ruining my day (and my family's) and turned to the Lord for help.
The first word that came to my mind was "servant", and I thought of Mary's sweet words, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord..." I went over to my work schedule and wrote the word down. I asked the Lord to help me to serve Him, my husband and my family. I asked Him to give me a servant's heart toward all those around me.
I began thinking how it was my responsibility to serve others--from my salvation day till my "graduation day". Do you know it turned my whole day around?
We ended the day with a wonderful pork chop supper with Mike Shockley. Then after supper we ate strawberry cheesecake cookies and pecan pie and played a Christmas Trivia game that Ralph and Pixie left us in the pocket calendar.
We laughed and acted silly (I actually laughed harder than I have in years when I accidentally put the word French in my question to Cierra- What was the nationality of the three _________ (and I said French) hens in the Twelve Days of Christmas!) and had a wonderful evening.
I got everything done that was supposed to be done---there are deviled eggs, a snowman cheeseball, Ham and Roast Beef Wraps, and a Mississippi Mud Cake all sitting and waiting to go to our church dinner tomorrow. The kids all have clothing mended and ready to wear tomorrow. :) The laundry is washed, dried and folded. The house looks very nice (by candlelight) and I ended the day as happy as a lark (or a partridge in a pear) tree instead of being the Grinch like I started out. It all turned around when I switched from being a taker (what about me?) to a giver. Lesson learned (for today)! Thank you, Lord for teaching me about being a servant today-this 17th day of advent.
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Day # 16 of advent....Christmas defined! Noah Webster says in his 1928 that Christmas is "The festival of the Christian church observed annually on the 25th day of December, in memory of the birth of Christ, and celebrated by a particular church service."
I found it interesting that Noah Webster's definition associated Christmas Day with a church service! It made me think that possibly durin...g his period of time each and every Christmas day they had a church service.
Today we find people moaning and groaning if Christmas should happen to hit on a Wednesday or a Sunday because it will interrupt their celebration of Christ's birthday to go to church! I wonder how that makes Him feel since it's His birthday we're celebrating and the local church is a great love He has?
Although I will admit that Christmas on Sunday or Wednesday has always altered our family traditions and we knew that it was going to be a service with just a few attending it has always been something I looked forward to.
I also must admit that I always hope for that little something extra special when the Lord's birthday celebration day hits on a church day. I'm never quite sure what I'm hoping for, but I'm always hoping for it!
As for my personal definition of Christmas? Well, I've been thinking about that as I write this. I think of Christmas more as a season than a day and more of a spirit or mood than an event. It seems to me if I were going to write a definition of Christmas for a dictionary it would be--Christmas- n., a period of time set apart to celebrate the birth of the Saviour of the world manifested by people showing evidence of the Spirit of Christ being present in this world by their wilingness to give, forgive, open their hearts, share and lift the burdens of others.
As His birthday approaches I pray that I will bring honor to His name in how I choose to celebrate it!
Day # 15 of advent....only 10 days till Christmas! I've been reading in the book of Daniel this week. One of my favorite verses is Daniel 3:28. "Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve ...nor worship any god, except their own God."
This is a verse I pray over my children and grandchildren. It is my prayer that they will yield their bodies to the Lord Jesus Christ alone and not do the opposite--worship or serve any god except their own God.
Tonight our little Mary and Joseph will start across the living room toward Bethlehem in our moving nativity here at the house. As I think about Mary I think first of her response to the news that she had been chosen to bear the Messiah--"Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." It sounds to me like she had a body yielded to the Lord before He let her know she would be the mother of Christ.
She was chosen of God and His choice for her involved a lot of uncomfortable moments. People were going to say terrible things about her that were not true. There were going to be miserable physical times during the 70 mile trip to Bethlehem, the time of delivery was going to be much less than ideal, finances were going to be very slim (look at their offering in the temple!), a flight to Egypt was in her future to save her baby's life, and later she would watch her beloved son die a terrible death so that she, a sinner, too, could receive salvation through Christ Jesus, the Messiah.
There were going to be many times in Mary's life she would have to ponder in her heart and try to figure out how what was going on was going to fit in the big plan that the Lord had for her. But she had only one God she was serving--not the gods of wood and stone, gold and silver that others found so tantalizing.
During a busy season that has many little gods reaching out to us I think it's very important that I give the Lord my body anew each morning and yield it to Him as the only God I serve. That way He can do the work in me, for me and through me that He desires to do this Christmas season. What a gift!
Day # 14 of advent...I'm beginning to think about Christmas our house there are some things you can't have Christmas without and there are some things that show up some Christmases but not every Christmas!
We went to my Grandma Nelle's on Christmas Eve. I always looked forward to my Grandma Nelle's Date Nut Roll, Divinity, (pink and white), my Aunt Wanda's Cherry Cheesecake dessert an...d my Great Aunt Agnes' Date Nut pudding. These items don't make it to our table every year, but they do show up at times. If I knew my dad was going to be with us I had to make Date Nut Roll and Date Nut pudding!
On Christmas Day we went to my Grandpa andGrandma Mettler's house. At her house I looked forward to her Apple Salad, her homemade caramels (wrapped in waxed paper) and my Aunt Norma's Pistachio Torte. The Pistachio Torte always makes it to one of our Christmas celebration tables!
I make lots of candies and cookies for Christmas. We always have chocolate fudge and peanut butter fudge. Some years we have Buckeyes and some years we don't. This year will be a "don't" year due to the cost of peanut butter! Last year we tried Cake Ball Truffles. We liked them, but not as well as real truffles!
I also love making cheesecakes and our Christmas classic is Chocolate Truffle cheesecake! It's something that has to be on the table for Asher, who is my cheesecake ally! He and I have to have a cheesecake at special occasions.
We usually have cheeseball and crackers. I use a recipe that a dear friend gave me years and years ago. It's still my all time favorite. I usually make my husband some pineapple cream pies, we have a pecan pie, a peanut butter pie and sometimes a chess pie of some sort at the table for Christmas.
Pink salad and Christmas punch are two of my favorite extras I like to make. I especially like having a Christmas punch if we're going to have children at the table.
For our family , Christmas dinner is ham, baked beans, Swiss medley, Sweet Potato Casserole, deviled eggs, cheeseball and crackers, and lots of desserts, candies and cookies. We have other sides usually but that's our classics for the Neal family.
Food is one of the wonderful things that make us family! I love the memories of Christmas past with its tables loaded with food! I am sure that just as I have sweet memories of childhood that I cling to and still try to keep alive my children and grandchildren will too. I think that's a wonderful Christmas tradition!
Day # 13 of advent...just got home from a wonderful day with the children celebrating skating, Hot Krispie Kreme donuts, a little shopping and a lot of listening to Christmas music!
As were out shopping today I looked at all the varieties and styles of Christmas decorations and I noticed that many of them had people's heritage in them. (I especially like the Scandinavian ones...!)
I began to think about some of the things my grandmother made (Christmas and otherwise) and would tell me that was the German in her coming out.
My step-mom and step-sister enjoy making latkes at Christmas to celebrate their heritage.
I love reading about how other countries celebrate Christmas and intertwining it into our Christmas celebration. It's fun every once in a while to try one or two of them as a family.
We've had the breakfast breads in the morning on St. Lucia's Day (that's today, by the way) the gingerbread house for a German celebration, and I've considered filling your children's shoes beneath the advent calendar with a special treat on December 6th as they do in the Netherlands!
What's your family history? It's fun to give our children a taste of it during the Christmas season!
Day # 12 of this wonderful advent season! Joy! What brings you joy during this season?
List them--write them'll enjoy just reading your list next year!
For me here's just a few!
* Walking down the beautiful parkway in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge and stopping in a shop to get a hot cup of cocoa, then walking outside and holding it to warm my hands and enjoy watching the steam go into the cold!
* A table set with china, Christmas glasses, a real tablecloth and cloth napkins, loaded with food and surrounded with friends and family.
*Going outside in the cold and looking in at all the lights and my family.
*Going outside and coming up that steps as though I am my husband and having the atmosphere all ready for him! (smells, sounds and decorations)
*Going into the other room when I have my family here, shutting my eyes and just listening to them. (laughter, music, games, children's voices)
*Watching children's faces during a movie, when they open a favorite gift, when they see lights they love, while we're baking together.
*Watching the Bishop's Wife, It's A Wonderful Life, the Polar Express, the Nativity, the Nutcracker cartoon...(and I'm sure there are more)
*Going into the Christmas store at Pigeon Forge just to see the lifesize nativity
*Our moving nativity here at the house!
*Seeing anyone show Christmas cheer to someone else
*Taking goodies to my neighbors
*Baking, baking, making candy and baked goods (did I say baking?)
*Answered prayers during the Christmas season!
*Reading the Christmas story and imagining I am there.
*Christmas music--and lots of it.
*Going to the pageant in Knoxville--driving through Knoxville's downtown at night on the way and looking at the lights. I even love walking from the van to the building because of the cold! (It makes you appreciate the warmth of the coliseum!)
*Ralph and Pixie's antics during the holiday!
*Hearing the bells on Polar Express when no one else can!

Oh, that's just a few! Isn't Christmas wonderful?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day # 11 of advent...the not-so-perfect Christmas. We all love the Christmas movies where everything ends up perfectly, the beautiful Christmas cards that have everything perfectly in place, the perfect meal, the perfect decorations....we want a perfect Christmas.
Actually, there is no such thing. Our carefully planned night of making cookies with the kids might have a major spill or a missing ingredient, our dinner might get totally out of sync, the money is short, the kids are not being perfect, and the list goes on and on and on.
One year my husband was working long hours, the children were 5 and under, we had no money, everyone around me seemed to be gloomy and I was catching the mood. However, I had little ones and I wanted them to have a wonderful Christmas in spite of things being not-so-perfect!
So that year I did a lot of late night sewing--little aprons that held their art supplies, (and I remember my machine giving me fits!), we did a lot of cookie baking and decorating, their Christmas dollies had homemade diaper bags with homemade diapers and although they only received one store bought gift they were incredibly happy!
That year I tried to put the tree up alone and it fell on me! I remember the kids standing on the couch watching the whole thing and screaming when it fell! They thought I was dead! (Well, you know, a tree fell on me!)
That is the year we began our birthday party for Jesus with chocolate cake and hot Tang. That is the year we would sit by the Christmas tree with all the lights off and I would tell them stories.
They still talk about those times, so I don't think my not-so-perfect Christmas was that to my children. It was a choice I had to make, rather to let it be ruined by everything not being post card perfect or to make the most of what we had at the time.
When I think of that first Christmas night I realize that nothing was going right for Mary and Joseph right then. They had to go to a strange town when it was her time to be delivered. When they got there they couldn't find a room. When they finally got settled in a barn they had no place to lay the baby and she had to wrap him in swaddling clothes! They were surrounded by Roman soldiers, a wicked king, and on the whole people who had no mercy on them and their situation. But in the midst of it all--a miracle was taking place!
When things aren't just like we imagine they ought to be we always have a choice--and the best choice is to look for the joy and the miracle of Christ in the midst of it.
Look for the opportunity to turn something that appears to be a problem into a blessing!
Electricity goes off? Pretend you're living during the Little House on the Prairie days and light the candles and oil lamps, build a fire in the fireplace (we have one right now) and teach them to cook over a fire! (Nothing like a good burnt grilled cheese sandwich!)
Sick child? Turn your couch into a hospital bed. Put a chair with a tea towel covered tray beside the couch and wait on them hand and foot. Teach them to slurp chicken noodle soup. Give them a bell to ring and you'll come running. Put a stack of books beside them and read one to them each hour. Pretend you're their private nurse. (You can even make yourself a paper nurse's hat.)
No money? Revamp toys. One year every gift Asher got was from Goodwill. He had no idea!
Most of all take your problem to the Problem Solver--so many, many times He has had a miracle at my door when my prayer was barely prayed. If nothing else He can give us the right attitude and perspective on the whole thing.
Will this year be the perfect Christmas? Not for me...I am not going to have a single grandchild at my Christmas dinner table, our family is still hanging in limbo as far as where the Lord wants us next, my husband is working those hours again where there is little time for us as a family unit--but we're having a wonderful, wonderful Christmas this year! The mood is festive, the house is decorated, the kids and I are having a wonderful time with home projects (John and I got the remodeling done on Mary and Joseph's home last night) and I'm discovering resources I had forgotten I owned! Thank You Lord that thanks to You every year is the perfect Christmas!
Day # 10 of the advent season ...Christmas trees. I love seeing everyone's Christmas tree. I think it tells you so much about their personality.
I would call ours a memory tree or "the children's tree". In our early matrimonial days when there wasn't a penny to spare about three weeks before Christmas I would make a corn starch/baking soda mixture up, roll it out and cut it out with cookie ...cutters--Raggedy Ann's and Andy's, bear, angels, church's and Christmas trees. Then I would paint them. (later the kids helped) I have some of them dated and one of the Raggedy Ann's painted to match Alicia's Christmas dress is dated 1979!
Later Gary would let me buy an ornament in remembrance of each outing we made at Christmas. We have Herr Drosselmeier we purchased after going to see the Nutcracker in 3D, we have a Polar Express watch, we have caroling children, Delft Dutch, ornaments that Asher, Cierra and John painted while we watched Christmas movies, and many more, each with a wonderful memory attached.
As we decorate out tree the kids will say "Remember when..." or they'll ask when we got the ornament. It makes the evening a wonderful Christmas memory ride.
This year John picked out two snowflakes at an evening when we got to use a gift certificate at Cracker Barrel we were given. The snowflakes remind us of our time on the plateau--where we've had more snow than we've seen in years!
Our tree is topped by a paper mache angel that I made a few years back-in search of a male angel! He's not perfect but he is "biblically correct"! :)
At the end of our decorating we put candy canes all over our tree and no one is allowed to touch them till after Christmas. With the older children we always had a candy cane race after we opened packages on Christmas morning.
Our tree is not the prettiest tree in the neighborhood, but to me it's the loveliest tree around because it is a tree that brings my children joy each year as we decorate it. And giving joy is what Christmas is all about!
Day #9 of the advent season....soaking up and creating atmosphere. When we were at Brian and Niki's for Thanksgiving she and I did the unimaginable and went out on Black Friday to pick up a few things. I stood back and watched quite a bit since I wasn't shopping that day. I can't say I was enjoying the atmosphere of people who appeared as if they had everything trying to get one more thing!
After we got what we needed (we were JoAnn's shoppers in need of sewing supplies and then to one department store) we went to Caribou Joe's and got a nice large cup of coffee. When we walked in the door the wonderful aroma of cocoa, coffee, chocolate and bread greeted us. Mmmmmm....Christmas atmosphere! I could feel my jangling nerves calming just by the right scent greeting me at the door!
I often ask myself what I want people to remember me for? I want them to step in my house and smell fresh bread, cookies, a meal cooking, coffee. I want them to see the fruits of my life....a sewing machine surrounded by projects, children sitting at their desks studying, to hear my Christian radio station playing and the clock ticking--good atmosphere!
On Saturday at Brian and Niki's my husband insisted we go to a nearby town and just go through shops. As we looked through local shops and admired their individuality, the beautiful Christmas decorations, the Christmas music and the smell of Christmas candles and potpourri I felt myself getting into the holiday mood.
The grand finale was taking the kids in a quaint local bakery and letting them pick out whatever Christmas cookie or donut they wanted and then taking them next door to a wonderful toy store and letting them just look to their heart's desire! The mood was complete--I went home ready to start Christmas!
My husband is so good during Christmas at just popping into a local candy store or bakery and letting us order a hot drink that we'd never order on our normal budget! It's a Christmas splurge. He usually takes us to a restaurant in Gatlinburg for breakfast or lunch that I love just for it's Old World atmosphere.
Men cooking in the back in white pants, shirts, apron and hats. Waitresses with black aprons wearing dresses, paneled walls, copper and brick, and a menu that looks like it came from my childhood. On top of that they have good food and hot coffee in wonderful shallow coffee cups! It's called the Pancake Pantry and it's one of my Christmas atmospheres that I will always cherish.

   At home it's my job to keep the atmosphere going. The wonderful smell of Christmas candles and potpourri, the Christmas music pouring through the house,
wonderful surprises popping up everywhere, (Like my wearing antlers when I come to kiss them goodnight or announcing we'll be painting ornaments or playing a game when we would normally be working.) It's my job to keep the sweet smell of Christmas baked goods coming and to see that fudge shows up when they least expect it and that every Christmas goodie they can't imagine doing without marches through this house during the Christmas season! Atmosphere--it melts me, I always end up singing with anyone that start singing out in public during this season and love, love, love it when anyone catches the mood with me and makes the most of it!

Day #8 of the advent season--I like to take the time to read all the prophetic passages that told of Christ's coming as the Messiah:
Gen. 3:14,15, Gen. 22:18, II Sam. 7:12-17, Psalms 89:3,4, Job 19:25, Isa. 7:13,14, Isa. 9:7, Isa. 11:1-9, Isa. 42:1-7, Isa. 52:13-53:12 and that's not all of them!
Something that I did with my Sunday School class that was so enjoyable was to make a Jesse tree. Y...ou can actually use a small Christmas tree or paint a branch white and put it down in a coffee can full of sand. You could cut a tree out and put it on the fridge or the wall--whatever works for you and your kids.
Make a list of all the things you can think of that helped us to look forward to Christ's coming:
Noah and the ark
The forbidden fruit that was part of man's fall and need for redemption
A scarlet ribbon for Rahab
A tent for Abraham
A scroll to represent Isaiah
Wheat for Ruth's redemption
A coat for Joseph
A lamb for David the shepherd king
A whale for Jonah
A ladder for Jacob
A little basket for Moses
A crown for Solomon
The manger for Mary and Joseph
Then make little ornaments for each out of paper, nutshells, felt, ribbon, cotton balls, etc. and hang them on your tree. Make sure you and the children discuss how these people were part of the promise or were told of the promise of the Saviour coming. Each one of them played a part in being in the line of Christ, prophesying of His coming or pointing to our need for Him as our Saviour.
I like to think of how each one of these people saw just a glimpse of what we see as the whole picture. It's a wonderful thing to dwell on this time of the year!
Day # 7 of advent...some of my favorite resources for all time favorite book I have that I use for ideas is my Pennywhistle Christmas book by Meredith Brokaw. She has some of the most wonderful, simple ideas that you've ever seen. We have a heavenly host of angels that the kids and I made years and years ago that hang in my Hoosier cabinet at Christmas.
I also love the Advent... book that Niki and I purchased together a few years back.
It's called the "the Advent Book" by Jack and Kathy Stockman. Each day you read a part of the story and your child opens a new door. I do this with my kids even now and they aren't allowed to open any doors past the day we're on. They take turns reading the book to me now--it's a Christmas tradition. If we miss a day we just make up the next night.
I have a small book called "Waiting for Christmas" that I have used ideas from for our Christmas celebrations.
My all time favorite Christmas storybook to read to the children is "That First Christmas Day" by Alice Huffaker. The heavenly host is male angels and the storyline is absolutely beautiful. Your children will end up saying the words of the book with you.
I actually used the pictures life size on my Sunday School walls one year and using them as a story line for the nativity each week. It was wondeful! (all done with an overhead projector)
There are so many wonderful things to do with our children at this time of the year. Try something and remember some things won't fly! Some of your traditions will happen accidentally.
One year we had no money at all and Gary was working a long shift so the children and I were alone through much of the Christmas season. I decided to make use of our time alone and do lots of hands on things with the little ones. (They were ages 1-6 at the time.)
One night I planned a Christmas party for Jesus by the lights of the Christmas tree. I made a chocolate cake for Jesus and wanted a hot drink to go with it. All I had was some Tang people had given us, so I heated it and seasoned it a little and we had chocolate cake with hot orange drink. The kids loved it and the next year they wanted the very same thing--hot Tang and chocolate cake! It became a tradition with the older children that couldn't be broken! :)
Get some ideas and then make them fit your budget, your children's ages, your time in life and have a wonderful, wonderful Christmas with them!
Day # 6 of advent....Christmas fasts....During this season of remember His birth it's good to take several fast periods right in the midst of a season of luxury and indulgence. I love my special moments with a rich chocolate or cup of hot drink that I'd never drink during a normal day, but right in the middle of it all it's good to take a day when you choose to say no to yourself and yes to those... making demands around you. It's good to withhold yourself from a luxury you want to give yourself, to stop and make that phone call you've been putting off, to have a day made up of giving others what they want completely and fully, forgetting about yourself and your wishes.
It's hard to hear His voice when we're in the middle of a bustling shopping center so it's good to take a fast from the hubbub for a day or even a few hours and enjoy the quiet of your own yard or porch taking in the beauty of nature at this time. Sometimes just stepping aside for a short time in the middle of such a busy, bustling time can get everything back into perspective.
I know this, you always give a gift to yourself and others when you "lay down your life" and embrace the other persons life and needs.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Day # 5 of advent...Make the most of "magic moments". One of our magic moments that has turned into a tradition was one night when we stopped at Krispy Kreme because the light was on and hot donuts sounded good. We had the most wonderful time as a family eating hot donuts in the vehicle as we looked at the Christmas lights in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and listened to Christmas music.
The time we all got together as a family a bunch of us piled into the van and headed out to see the lights at the park at Pigeon Forge. On the way back my hubby noticed the hot light was on and we did a u-turn and headed back to Krispy Kreme.
The girl at the window wanted to know how many we had "in there" and when we told her she handed Krispy Kreme hats through the window. Everyone put on their hat, Grandpa Charles said he didn't know how safe that many hot donuts were on his lap and we sang Christmas songs as we drove down the parkway looking at the twelve days of Christmas lights.
When we got back to the cabin the junior age girls handed out the warm donuts to everyone. Another "magic moment" with the Krispy Kreme tradition.
This year when I was asking the children what they would like to do during the holiday season one of them said that they would like to go to Pigeon Forge and make a run through the Krispy Kreme while the hot light was on and then look at lights. A wonderful moment that just happened and then turned into Christmas magic for our family.
Those moments happen every year...I hope I never lose the child in me that remembers how to make the most of them when they happen! So if you hear me singing out loud with the Christmas music while I'm out shopping during the Christmas season you know I'm having a magic moment! :)
Day # 4 of advent...
Keeping the Christmas story central in Christmas...believe me, we have a lot of wonderful things going on during Christmas! Today, John and his dad got the porch at our house decorated. This is a first for us--decorating the outside of the house with anything more than luminaries. Grandpa Charles would approve of the job they did! (lots of lights)
Inside, we have my favorite Christmas decoration--our moving nativity. Mary and Joseph have their residence on one side of the living room while Bethlehem is on the other side of our living room complete with shepherds on a hillside.
About 10 days before Christmas Mary and Joseph have a soldier standing outside of their house and a tiny note attached to their door telling them they must go to Bethlehem to be taxed.
They have a donkey and a bedroll ready to go and they begin their journey across the living room to Bethlehem.
We have wise men on the other side of the living room that begin their journey too and arrive after Christmas.
On Christmas morning baby Jesus is in his place and all is well. A star burns over the stable and the shepherds are hovering around the baby and his parents. I love the whole thing.
During the ten days Mary and Joseph move during the night and are in a new place each morning. Each year a new person or thing shows up as a gift for the pocket calendar and makes our nativity scene just a little better for next year. It might be a palm tree, flickering campfires for the shepherds, or a new tradesperson for the city of Bethlehem. The whole nativity is a hodgepodge of homemade, Fontanini, my grandmother's sheep from her nativity set or Dollar Tree goodies but that's what makes it uniquely ours. Each part of it has a special memory and place in our lives.
John begins fretting if they don't move fast enough or don't get going as soon as they get their notice. I stay content knowing that the Christmas story is being carried out right in our living room and we're keeping it in front of the children each day. In front of mom too, when it's busy it's good to go into the living room and look at the whole scene and remember what all the celebrating is really about!

Day # 3 of advent....Grandma AllDean's porch looks so pretty with Christmas wreaths and lights...she turned me loose!
One of the ways I love to celebrate this season and keep my perspective is to have my very own silent night. Put on the Christmas music after the kids go to bed, light some candles, get some hot cocoa or eggnog and sit in a darkened room with the fireplace and Christmas lights and just relax and think about all that you love about this season. It can be a time or prayer, a time to remember, a time to go over your grateful list, but it's a good time to just give yourself the gift of a quiet time during a very busy season!
Tonight I'm thankful for the joy of children at this time of the year, the joy of my being a child of God, a wife, a mother, a homemaker. I'm thankful that the Lord has given me a love for every role He has given me. I'm thankful for the beauty of Christmas, for the "mood" that makes people more open at this time of year, for watching my children's excitement build, for the wonderful aroma of Christmas.....I could go on and on...thank You Lord for your coming to us bringing so very much joy into our lives!
Day # 2 of the wonderful "advent" (anticipation of the Lord's coming!)....keeping a diary of sorts of your advent season. I have diaries, journals, scrapbooks of all sorts and types. I am not religious in keeping them, but my children and grandchildren will be able to piece together (or maybe I can give it some continuity before I die) of my life. You might include what really spoke to your hea...rt during this season, a special picture on a Christmas card you loved, a prayer list of your Christmas requests from the Lord, an illustration of something engraved in your memory. Whatever suits your personality this is a wonderful activity to help keep your mind on what really is important at Christmas!

Day # 1 of Advent!

December 1st....lots of excitement begins at the Neal household....Ralph and Pixie are sitting on a big box of Top of the Stove cookies with Christmas chocolate chips in them (red and green) delivering their first pocket calendar gift...most importantly, this is the first day of advent-time to 1) prepare 2) expect 3) anticipate & 4) wait--by Christmas Day I have a goal of preparing my heart to be closer to Him as His second coming approaches, to expect great things from Him as I draw closer, to anticipate all He has for me during this time, the things He desires to teach me and tell me, and to wait in His presence for His voice and direction during this season!