Rejoicing always can be a challenge, but is important

In our church’s sermon yesterday, the pastor quoted from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. “ Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  Powerful words, right?! (image from Power Point Clip Art) 

Jesus told us to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything? Seriously Lord? You really want us to do this? You really expect us to do this? It is a challenge what we are called to do. Also, it can often be just what we need. After all, the Lord does work in mysterious ways. 

As hard as this year has been, there have been good points and times that I cherish. Extra time with my son to talk during breakfast, prayer group chats, time to watch a favorite show or movie, Zoom chats with family and friends, phone calls and texts, cards in the mail, and time to cook a few favorite meals. Also, I like that we don’t have to race out of the door each morning.

Still I miss seeing friends and my sister and brother and their families. It has been since last year that we saw them in person. Too long but we are all trying to be careful and listen to the doctors, researchers, scientists, and others who know how serious this pandemic really is. 

I also miss my friends, going to church, seeing people at Ian’s school and around town, eating at a favorite restaurant, and so much more. I am thankful that there are ways to handle that, just not the same as we are used to. We can Zoom or chat with our friends, see them outside with masks on, listen to an online church service singing the hymns at home, and getting take out food or going through the drive-thru. 

So there are things to rejoice about and to give thanks about. Just sometimes, we have to think about them. Sometimes they don’t come as easily since we can get bogged down in the bad stuff of life. I have learned through my struggles that having joy and positive things in my life made a big difference. It cannot be all bad to be able to heal from the pain and sadness. 

This year I am praying a lot – for family, friends, my son and his classmates, his teachers and all of the other teachers in our lives, his school administrators, other families at his school and those all over the world in this time of new education, college students, and those at other schools as well. 

We also pray for our loved ones’ health and the health of the nurses and doctors who are taking care of so many sick people, the first responders from many departments, all hospital staff, and the police officers. We pray for those in the military, in positions of leadership, and our elected officials. 

I know that this Christmas will be like one I have never seen.  We have always spent time with lots of family and friends — both on my side and on Kirk’s side. This year that is not possible. In my families, there will be no large gatherings — at least not in person.

As hard as that is, we know it is the right thing to do for this year. So much is still unknown about the virus that we need to be careful and mindful of keeping our loved ones healthy and safe. 

So this year will be quieter, smaller, and hopefully with some real quality time with those nearest and dearest to us. Sleeping in, games and chats, laughter, study, some time to work (but not much), songs, favorite movies, and reading of the story of Jesus’ birth. 

A few things I am thankful for: 

  • Despite not getting to sing “Silent Night” by candlelight at my church, we can sing it at home. Also, I recorded a TV special about this precious hymn. I look forward to watching that. 
  • Bible study in the evening with my son. This was his idea and for that, I am truly thankful. 
  • My family who I treasure so much and am enjoy shopping for. Secret Santa gifts are a great idea. 
  • Cards from loved ones about their year. We are sending one out as well. 
  • My friends near and far who are never more than a call, text, or Zoom away. 
  • Time with my son’s best friend and our families for their birthday celebrations. 
  • Plenty of time to watch some favorite movies and TV shows. 
  • Zoom chats with family and friends. 
  • Being able to sit under a blanket and read a book. 
  • Looking at my son’s art work and creativity and listening to him explain it. 
  • Our home with many memories with us and my late husband. We miss him but each day continue to heal. 
  • Listening to my son on a Zoom call with friends. They love to laugh and that is wonderful. 
  • Days off from work to enjoy the season of giving, loving, and peace. 

I hope and pray that you can find the blessings in your life, despite all of the hardships. I pray for peace and joy for you. I also pray that you will always, always love. 

Christmas Five Years Ago

TT.12-17_15Hi and Happy Thursday.  For today’s Throwback Thursday, I included a picture of the three of us at Christmas.  This was taken in 2010 when Ian was 3 years old.

My how has he changed since this photo.  He was into all things that preschoolers love.  He had fun at Christmas but this year is different.  He now understands what it’s all about, enjoys reading his Advent calendar each day, and had fun drafting a long letter to Santa.

In 2010, he got the Candyland game and we played it for hours and hours.  Last year, he received Monopoly and was equally thrilled.  Also, in 2010, Ian received a large fire truck that he was able to get into and play with.  He loved it and still enjoys it today.

I have always loved Christmas and love that he enjoys it as much as I do.  He is very excited to have just today and tomorrow left at school before our break.  Let the holiday fun begin!

Today I am thankful for so much.  We are blessed and fortunate to have our family traditions and our family and friends to enjoy being with.  Among my blessings are:

  • Family traditions with my family of 3 and extended family
  • Ian reading his Advent Bible verses each day
  • Shopping with Ian for an angle tree gift
  • Christmas shows with my guys
  • Hot chocolate and popcorn in the evenings
  • Advent services and meals at church (even though we missed a few because of illness)
  • Christmas party at school
  • Parties with friends
  • Making fudge for gifts
  • Crafting ornaments and other things
  • Choosing favorite photos
  • Playing games with friends and family
  • Hours and hours of fun and laughter
  • A break from our usual routine
  • Seeing friends after years apart
  • Special dinner out with my hubby
  • The upcoming birth of our Savior
  • Messy hair and pjs on Christmas morning

And a few quotes about Christmas:

  • “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis
  • “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.” ~ Andy Rooney
  • “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” ~ Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • “Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. “~ Peg Bracken

May you blessed and enjoy this holiday season.

The Blessing of Crafting

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAHappy last weekend before Christmas!  It’s just a few days away and we still have things to finish.

Again this year, we are making ornaments, and making fudge and other treats to give out as gifts.  This is our second year of doing so and I love it again this year.  I am blessed to have the time to do this at home.  I know not everyone can do so.

Last year, I saw a great and very easy recipe for Peppermint Fudge on “The Pioneer Woman” television show.  There are only three ingredients. I thought, “I can certainly do that.”  Cool.  So our fudge gift was born.  The great thing is that people really like it.

On Thursday, we had Ian’s class Christmas party.  Several parents and his teacher helped me put a great party together and the kids had a blast.  We ate yummy pizza with other foods, watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” and the kids made three ornaments.

The first craft was two ornaments made out of beads and pipe cleaners.  They had a choice between a wreath and candy canes.  Some did both and some did two of each.  It was fun to see their creativity. The second craft was coloring wooden ornaments with pens and then gluing on small balls for noses or a button.  The students had so much fun being crafty and it was great to see!

This photo includes some of the bead ornaments that we made last year and this year.  By the end of this year, we will have a few more to add to our tree.  I love crafts and much as arts — thus I am an arts and crafts gal!

Here are a few quotes about crafting and creativity:

  • “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” — Francis of Assisi
  • “Crafting is the best medicine.” — Unknown
  • “Write what you don’t know. Imagine, empathize, create. Build something from a fragment of a daydream. Believe in the magic of creation.” — Unknown
  • “It’s not just about creativity. It’s about the person you’re becoming while you are creating.” — Charlie Peacock
  • “Nothing can rival the incredible rush the act of creation brings. Of crafting something you know is destined to be great for all time.” — Alyson Noel
  • “In crafting there are no mistakes. It is your own unique creation.” — Unknown

I wonder what fun and crafty things we will be doing today?  I plan to make some fudge, some cookies, and a few more ornaments.  Have fun in your crafts too!

The Blessing of Christmas Music

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go.  I don’t know about you, but I love Christmas music! I love the pop music on the radio as well as the carols and hymns that are sung at church.

For our advent services, we use a caroling songbook that was put together last year.  Part of the songs are sacred Christmas songs and others are Christmas fun.  On the sacred list are tunes like, “Silent Night,” “Still, Still, Still,” and “What Child is This?” On the fun list are “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Silver Bells.”

This photo is of our tree with the musical ornaments and a Singing Santa in front.  He lights up, signs, and his hat flaps up and down.  Even in the silliest things, it is about the music.

I have some favorite songs that the local radio station plays throughout the Christmas season and some others as well.  I like these songs sung or performed by particular people.  They are:

  • “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as sung by Andy Williams.  This is my all-time favorite and I crank it up every time and sing along with it.
  • “Happy Holidays” also sung by Andy Williams. I loved him as a child and still do.  His voice is Christmas to me.
  • “Do They Know It’s Christmas” By Band-Aid.  This was originally recorded and released in 1984.  Although a sad song, it reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas and that we are called to help one another.  This year, it was re-recorded to raise money for Ebola.  I just love that!
  • “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins.  It is all about making it home for Christmas with your loved ones.
  • “A Baby Changes Everything” by Faith Hill.  A baby born on Christmas changed everything. Babies born every day also change everything.  Our baby certainly did for us.
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Josh Groban.  This one gives me chills, especially the version that is interspersed with servicemen and women talking to their families.  Again, home is the place to be, at least in my opinion.
  • “O Holy Night” as sung by my mother at church.  She has a lovely voice and her rendition gives me chills every time. Looking forward to this year Mom!
  • “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as sung by Ian.  He has learned about the Rudolph story this year and loves it. And he has made up his own version of a female purple-nosed reindeer.  Love his creativity.
  • “Tennessee Christmas” by Amy Grant.  Since I am from Tennessee, the words mean a lot.
  • “White Christmas” from the movie as sung by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera Ellen.  I love this entire movie and all of the songs in it.  And, I sing with each and every one of them.
  • “My Grown-Up Christmas List” by Amy Grant.  The words are just right for my current wish list.  Gifts are more than material things.
  • “Santa Clause is Coming To Town” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  This is a fun version recorded at a concert.
  • “Last Christmas” by Wham.  I really like George Michael’s voice on this song.
  • “Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney.  This is another fun song.
  • “The Hallelujah Chorus” as performed by a choir with a full orchestra.  I have performed this song twice and loved singing it both times.
  • “Winter Wonderland” by Eurythmics.  I like Annie Lennox’s voice on this version.
  • “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) by U2.  This is one of my favorite groups and is a great version.

What are your favorite Christmas songs?  I would love to hear about them and what you like about them.

I wonder if I will be singing along with these songs?  Yes!  I most certainly will!

The Blessing of Christmas Past

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi and happy Throwback Thursday.  It is hard to believe that two weeks from today is Christmas.  Wow!  Where did the year go? For today’s photo I decided to include a photo of Ian at his first Christmas.  He was two months old and fascinated with all of the lights and colors and textures.

We were looking at each other and as you can see, his fingers were in his mouth. Many things went into his mouth, as usually happens with babies. This particular year we received a lot of Baby’s First Christmas gifts — framed photos, stockings and several ornaments that we still include in our holiday decorations.

Ian was nearly 10 pounds when he was born so he never was a tiny little guy.  But, this is so small compared to him now at 7 years old. At this size, I could hold his entire body on my lap.  Now, his legs hang onto the couch.

The years have flown by with him but we have savored each and every minute.  I like that we can have conversations with him now and that he can read to us. Our boy has grown up into such a wonderful young man.  For that I am truly thankful and very blessed.

The next few weeks will be quite busy as we finish getting ready for the Lord’s birthday.  There are ornaments and food to make, purchases to finish, and baking to be done.  I will be taking it one day at a time and plan to have fun with it.

May you have a blessed remainder of Advent and the Christmas season!! May you enjoy this year’s Christmas as much as past Christmas celebrations!

11 Days ‘Til Christmas

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWow, the countdown continues.  We are now less than 2 weeks from Christmas — just 11 more days.

I don’t know about you but I am not quite ready, but thankfully I am not beginning to panic — at least not yet!  🙂

Here is a photo from last month when we started decorating our tree.  Ian was placing ornaments on the tree and had an absolute ball!

This year is a great year for him to enjoy Christmas and I am so enjoying the entire season!  He is fascinated with the lights, the music, the Christmas specials on television and making and decorating Christmas cookies.

Earlier this week, we watched “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” which has the story of Santa.  At first he was unsure of the mean Burgermeister as well as the Warlock, but discovered that as they learned about love and friendship, they became nice.  It was a neat lesson.

About Christmas, Ian said recently, “It is when Santa comes to Jesus’ birthday party.”  Isn’t that great?  I love how he summed it up so well.  He seems to understand that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus with Santa thrown in for fun!

May we as adults enjoy this magical time of year with the wonder and innocence of a child!  And, may we throughout the year show the love and compassion for one another that is so prevalent at this time of year!  I truly hope and pray that we can do that!

Today, I am thankful for:

  • A boy who sings “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”
  • Stores where photo gifts can be made and then either picked up or mailed to you
  • Coffee with peppermint mocha creamer (very sweet and a treat)
  • Trying to arrange a get-together with family and friends
  • A friend who will receive her bachelor’s degree tomorrow.  Although I can’t be at the ceremony, I will be there in spirit.
  • Singing along with the Christmas songs on the radio
  • Teaching Ian about the Advent Wreath
  • Watching Ian print out pictures of Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas from the Internet
  • Eating popcorn and hot chocolate
  • Christmas specials on television
  • Receiving a special early gift from my hubby
  • Finding the perfect gift for a special someone
  • Hearing what Ian wants for Christmas
  • Quoting each song while watching the amazing movie “White Christmas.”

May you have a wonderful Christmas!  Remember that Jesus is the Reason for the Season!