Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christ in Christmas

On the Horizon and The Next Step have posed the question “How do you keep Christ in Christmas?” I find it an interesting question. Maybe I’m blessed, but the hubbub of busyness and the over-commercialization of the holiday and the crazy “I gotta do more” attitude all around us really does not affect my Christmas. The real question for me, as I look around me, is “how can they NOT keep Christ in their Christmas?”

One of the practical things that I do, and have been pretty successful this year, is that I try to have the majority of shopping and planning done by December 1. When Advent begins, I want to start calming my spirit toward what is coming. For the most part, gifts were bought, wrapped and boxed for mailing by the first week of December, Christmas cards were designed and printed and my shopping list was made (and even pre-ordered for delivery via computer grocery shopping). That just left sitting back and enjoying the season. The last minute “needs” have not stressed me.

Another thing I began last year with the girls and continued this year was a Jesse Tree and advent calendar. It is amazing how just a few minutes each day talking with the girls about Jesus’ heritage and family tree has helped me keep perspective. They are so excited about the Bible verse each day, they have long-forgotten they were supposed to get a chocolate with each window we opened. That excites me—that my children get that the holiday is about Jesus. I have tried to be diligent about doing a quiet time or having a concentrated prayer time as well. I don’t want my personal relationship with the King of my life get overshadowed by the celebration of His birth. I admit, that is often easier to say than to do. Many of our activities are crowded into my normal me-time. I’m having to be creative in searching for those minutes. But they are priceless in reminding me of the season.

Christmas music plays almost constantly from Thanksgiving to Christmas. But not just any Christmas music. WOW praise and other Christian artists fill my home with the constant reminder that it is about Jesus. This helps focus my mind on what is most important. And I find that makes it easier to filter my conversation. For example, we traditionally bake cookies and decorate them for Christmas. We decorated Christmas trees and little girls and stars this year. Trees because Flower chose them, girls because Jewel chose them and Stars because the Star marked Jesus’ birth place. While we decorated we talked about the Christmas story. To some it might have seemed like normal conversation, but for my soul it was nourishment.

We only give 3 gifts to the girls at Christmas—representing the three gifts that Jesus received. We are able to tell and retell the story. I call it educating my girls, but I know deep down it is re-educating me. I don’t have to buy the hype, I need to adore the Savior. And I look for reasons to adore Him. As I receive Christmas cards, I pray for the person who sent it and thank God for bringing them into my life. I allow God to bring to mind the reasons they are special to me. And I am thankful. As I wrap and send gifts or cards, I pray God’s blessings into those lives. As I step into a frost-covered world, I marvel at His creativity. I find that at Christmas it is so much easier for me to see Him and be grateful to Him, because it is all about Him. I cannot comprehend Christmas without Christ at the center. I pray that I never can.

Bless you all this Holiday Season!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Three More Sleeps


Three more sleeps until my Daddy and his lovely wife arrive to celebrate Christmas with us! I am sooooo excited! He has not been here in four years, and she has never been. YAY!! I am so grateful to family for allowing us to have her for Christmas. Wish you all could come! (**waving**)

Monday, I wrote on Jewel's calendar "Grandad and D come". She read it. Read it again. And then a huge smile spread over her face and she ran to tell Flower they were coming. We've been talking about it for weeks, but she had not caught on.

So, anyway. They will be here the week commencing Christmas Eve. I plan to be busy and not blogging. (I will stop by tomorrow to post one more, then you'll have to wait until New Years when I post meditations and a review of 2007).

Until then, Merry Christmas from our family to yours!


My Little Mary

Jewel participated in her first church program Sunday (not counting when she played baby Jesus at 3 months old and had to be carried off the stage screaming and replaced by a doll). This time she was Mary.

They sang three songs---"Away in a Manger" "Days of Elijah" and "It's a Mystery." She learned every word! I was so pleased with her. She loved every minute of it.


What you can't see in the picture is that baby Jesus is in a cradle, and she rocked the cradle with her foot the entire show. Then she would lean over and pat the baby and kiss his forehead. Such a little mom!

I Have a Social Life....Part Five

I love winter weddings. And Christmas weddings are even more dramatic with their reds and greens against the white of a wedding dress. Last Friday, we were honored to attend the wedding of our good friend Jewel (yes same name) and her lovely groom A. It was a magical day. She walked down the aisle to bagpipes. The service was conducted by a life-long friend of her family who made it so personal. The music was lovely. The congregation ended the service singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing!". Then the wedding party exited to the sound of bagpipes as well.

The girls attended the wedding, then we took them home to a babysitter and left for the reception. Beautiful! It was a lovely evening and meal. Each of the tables were set up with a Scottish word. Our table was the "drookits" which apparently means that we were all wet (or totally drenched). It was almost a prophecy in itself as the waiter spilled gravy on one of the guests and dessert on another. When he came out with the hot coffee we lined our cups in one spot and those two people stood up while he poured--weren't taking any chances, lol.

Thank you Jewel and A for allowing us to be a part of your special day. May God bless your marriage richly!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Heard at Our House this Week

For your amusement a couple of conversations heard at our house this week.

Conversation One:
Setting: I had just sat dinner on the table which included some sliced cheese
Flower: What kind of cheese is that Mum?
Me: It's Edam
Flower: Mum you're funny!
Me: Why am I funny?
Flower: Edam not cheese. Edam was in the garden with Eve!
Me: No baby, Adam was in the garden with Eve. Edam is a town in Holland where they make cheese.
Flower: Oh....sorreeee!
Bible and geography lesson in one. How fun!

Conversation Two:
Setting: Sitting on the bed reading "The Night Before Christmas" story.
Flower: Why they call him St. Nick? That not St. Nick, that Santa Claus!
Me: Remember, the character of Santa Claus came from the legend of St. Nicholas. Some people use the name of St. Nick for Santa Claus.
Flower: Well that's just wrong!
Me: Why is it wrong?
Flower: Because St. Nicholas was real and Santa Claus isn't real and the story isn't real so it's Santa Claus not St. Nick.
So now you know....

This is Luxury???

As I stated in the last post, German's party for his direct reports was an overnight in a small hotel. It was one of those trendy-everything in the room is for sale-type hotels. And it was beautiful. I wouldn't have bought anything, but it was beautiful. Minamilstic. Stark white (eek-we had the kids with us) beauty.

They gave us the largest suite because, well he's the boss and is paying for it all. Plus it was our room that was going to be babysitting central for 5 kids, so the space was nice. The room itself was huge. It housed our 4 poster bed, a chaise lounge, a table large enough for 4 to easily eat around it, 2 extra single bed cots and there was plenty of room to walk around everything. It was perfect for what was needed.

Then there was the bathroom. And it was supposed luxury.

That's right, you are seeing two claw-foot tubs in the middle of the room. They each have a hand-held shower attached. No way to use the shower without getting water everywhere, but oh well. And when was the last time you needed two baths sitting next to one another?

But at least they were pretty and you could take a nice bubble bath in them (they even provided the bubbles). This on the other hand just made me go hmmmm.


That's the towel rack. You are probably thinking, but MiPa every bathroom needs a towel rack. And you are right. But let me give you some perspective of the placement of said towel rack.


That's Flower, all 3 feet of her, standing below it. See the problem? Yeah, I thought so.

Apparently the non-luxury suites had proper showers and towel racks you could use. Now I know the definition of luxury. Who knew?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Have a Social Life...Parts 3 and 4

I'm putting together the next two events because we were having such a good time, we forgot to take enough pictures to warrant their own posts!

German is an account executive. He works onsite with the customer. He was invited this year to attend the Chief Operations Officer's party for his direct reports. It was an overnight affair, to be held at this castle (day and night shots)!

Photobucket Photobucket
To say I was nervous was an understatement. This is the next-to-the-top man and the party is at a castle! Plus, we had never left the girls overnight, so I was being an anxious mommy. "Grandma" Phyllis came to stay with the girls. They could not push us out the door fast enough, they were soooo excited. We drove up to the castle, checked in our room and then got dressed. (did not take a single picture of ourselves, ugh) It was a cocktail dresses and coats/ties optional affair. We headed over to the castle and champagne or orange juice while everyone gathered. Then we toured the castle. Lovely! As we made our way on the tour I happened to see the seating chart for the dinner. I was sitting next to the COO for the entire dinner. Now I was even more nervous! But it was a great evening. The meal was spectacular and the company was sterling. I don't think I have been that at ease visiting with someone in ages. It was incredible how many things we had in common--including faith, which is not something that he would have discussed at work. We managed to get back to our room around 145 a.m. We felt blessed to be invited, and doubly blessed to be given a place of honor. What a great evening!

The next morning we hurried home and were greeted with "You're home already?" Nice to be missed. But I had to unpack and repack for us to head up to Leeds for our black-tie party for German's direct reports. We were staying in a small hotel. One of his colleagues was bringing his 3 teenage girls and they were keeping our girls in the room during the dinner. Another lovely meal and great fun. This time we got back to the room around 130! (note to self, 2 late nights in a row are no longer easy!) This is the only picture we got of us!


Tomorrow I'll do a post about the "luxury suite" we had at the hotel. Our whirlwind social life is about to wind down. One more event to tell you about. Then back to boring for another eleven months, lol. Thank you for indulging me.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

In Other Words--Amidst Suffering There is Still God

"Don't blame suffering in the world on the anger of God. He's not mad; he didn't mess up. Follow our troubles to their headwaters, and you won't find any angry or befuddled God. But you will find a sovereign God.
Your pain has a purpose. Your problems, struggles, heartaches, and hassles cooperate toward one end -- the glory of God."

~Max Lucado, It's Not About Me~

Christmas is a hard time of the year for so many people. My neighbour is entering his 5th Christmas without his dear wife, who lost a valiant fight to cancer 5 years and one week ago. He has done a great job raising their two teenagers--but it's been hard. She was faithful to the God she knew would heal her, one way or another, until the moment she woke in eternity.

Last May one of the sweetest men I've ever known lost a battle to throat and tongue cancer. He lost his ability to speak, but just before he died he wrote a note to our pastor. "It's okay...I know where I'm going." Testifying in his darkest days.

Last week friends at church lost their grandfather. At 13, she and her little sisters are more shell-shocked than anything. But the morning after he died, she was at the church serving in the creche--because that is where she belonged.

Suffering. Being sick and hurt. Standing by and watching someone you love in pain and dying. Never easy. This time of year, can be even harder. But suffering is part of this fallen world.

Not one of these people consider the things they suffered or their family suffered to be punishment. In fact, all of them have pointed to the gracious God who carried them, honored them, comforted them and loved them through the suffering. Mother praising God that she saw her teenagers come to know a Savior before He took her home. Gentleman thanking God for almost 50 years with his lovely wife before he would go ahead of her to heaven. Granddaughter praying that this event would bring her own father closer to belief. They saw the bigger picture. They prayed others would see the bigger picture. They may not have wanted the outcome or the suffering, but they want to honor God more.

The testimony of someone who is able to see the hand of God in their suffering is great. The world expects moaning and complaining about all that afflict us. When we can point to a bigger picture they notice. (This does not mean that the pain and sorrow is not there and is not real. In each of the cases I mentioned, the pain is immeasurable--but their hope is measured in the One who loves and created them.) In a small way, we see these verses played out:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
Romans 8:17-19

Accepting suffering with the hope of God in our lives demonstrates the knowledge that this world is temporary--and what is to come is so much more. The glory to come is worth what happens here. I believe others see that--and if they do not have the hope of the future, they begin to want it. I have seen hard heart after hard heart softened and touched while watching someone bear their burdens in hope and grace. Suffering is not about God punishing, it is about God revealing Himself not only to the person bearing the burden but to all those around that person.

Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
Psalm 119:49-50

Sovereign Lord, help me to be slow to judge others as they suffer. When suffering comes my way, help me to reflect hope in You and You alone. May my attitude never detract from You. Father hold those who are suffering this holiday season close to your heart. May your glory shine in their lives and in their situations. And allow me to hands of compassion and words of mercy to those who need Your encouragement during difficult and trying times. Let me see the suffering with Your eyes and act accordingly. Help me to never forget, no matter the circumstances, You are still God and You still hold the plan to draw others to You. Amen.

Our hostess for In Other Words this week is On the Horizon. Please join us with your reflection on this quote, or just to read others' reflections. Bless you!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Have a Social Life...part two

Our second big event this year was incredibly special. When German changed jobs eighteen months ago he had spent several years fairly unappreciated at work. He was delivering well and his bosses were taking credit (and getting large bonuses) but he was getting little to no recognition. We left, knowing that God was leading and that it was ultimately God who blesses. And we repeatedly told ourselves that we were not necessarily greener pastures but they were definitely different. God has poured out His blessings and these pastures are green, green, green.

Every year his company has a ball called the National Excellence Awards. It is by special invitation only, and for achievement. This year German's VP invited us to sit at his table! It is an overnight event at this hotel in London.
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We were invited to bring the girls down with us, although they were not able to attend the ball. They had a blast...a babysitter (through an agency the hotel recommends, and a story in itself) and room service and a train ride.
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The ball itself was amazing. Champagne reception and a lovely meal. Incredible atmosphere. Great company.

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They had a professional photographer to take our photos, and delivered them to our table before the meal was finished.

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Then, the *surprise* guest speaker was announced. It was Richard Hammond from BBC's Top Gear. If you know anything about my husband, you know that he is an over-the-top car guy. We watch Top Gear every week. In fact, German had just listened to Richard Hammond read his latest book on tape that very week. He was over the moon! And Hammond is a very good speaker. After the meal, there was a live band for dancing until the wee hours of the morning. A wonderful evening.

The next day, we went shopping at Harrod's, where Alvin the chipmunk happened to be appearing.
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We also played in Hyde Park, visited the Diana memorial fountain, and walked through the "German Christmas market" before taking the train home. I was exhausted...I'm not as young as I used to be and partying all night is not as easy as it once was, lol.

But what an amazing weekend. What an amazing honor. What an amazing God to have led us to this and blessed us through it!

I Have a Social Life...part one

I laughingly say that I have a social life about two weeks out of the year--starting with Thanksgiving and leading into Christmas. It is then that I can count on 1-2 social engagements. The rest of the year my social life revolves around church activities and kid activities. I am sure there are other moms of young children out there who can identify. This year, we have been incredibly blessed with a flurry of activities, so indulge me over the next few posts while I share some.

The highlight of my social calendar is without a doubt Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday as a child, and I've not lost it. As a kid, it centered around my maternal grandmother's house as her sisters and their kids all came to celebrate--sometimes more than three dozen gathering around the tables. The cooking started early. If harvest had gone well, and was finished, the men would probably go hunting sometime during the day. There were lots of cousins dashing in and out of the house and laughter filled the air. I miss my grandmother most on Thanksgiving day. She was an amazing cook, and many of her recipes died with her. She would say that she couldn't write them down but she could show me. This year as I cooked I took pictures of the steps along the way. I plan to make a Thanksgiving cookbook for my girls, showing them how to prepare the meal, in her honor.
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Since moving to the United Kingdom, Thanksgiving is different. It is not a holiday and most people here don't understand any of the history. So, we like to invite a few friends to share with us each year to give them a taste of what would be happening in the States. This year we had three families who could come--a couple who serves on the diaconate with German and have been among our closest friends since we arrived, a couple who just moved to our church (their daughter is Jewel's age) and a young Scottish couple who are moving in the coming week down South where his new Army posting is located. We started the evening off with a little quiz about Thanksgiving history--complete with a prize. Then we enjoyed the traditional feast.
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It was so much fun getting to know everyone better and laughing and just being together. The girls had a blast playing with their new friend. Makes me thankful (no pun intended) to see how God has blessed us with a church family to share with and a home to open up and friendships that can last into eternity. If I didn't have another social event all year, this one would make it worth it.
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btw...Jewel took this picture, didn't she do well?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Other Words--Bringing Paradise to Earth

"Be such a person and live such a life,
that if every person was a person like you,
and every life a life like yours,
This Earth would be God's Paradise."
~Phillips Brooks~

Being the literalist that I can be, I'm having a little trouble with this quote. Since God has demonstrated His absolute creativity in all of His creation, I cannot fathom His Paradise being filled with people who are all alike. That is the literalist in me.

But, I am going to set aside that literalist bent today, because I do understand the intention of this quote, and agree with its essence. My paternal grandmother used to remind me, "Be the kind of friend you want to have." People are attracted to friendships based on common interests and common expectations. Our actions and our lives should reflect the One who has called us.

God's Paradise does not begin when we get to heaven, it begins the moment we allow the King of Kings to enter our lives and rule. We become a part of His paradise. As He changes me, and makes me more like Him, that should draw people to Him. I want my life to be a reflection of what paradise will be like--worshiping God, trusting Him, living a life of service and devotion. I know I love being around people who are devoted to living for Christ--so I should hope that others love being around me for the same reason.

In this busy, crazy season of trying to do all things festive while still remembering the heart of the holiday--a Savior come to earth--I pray that you and are able to be the kind of people who are living God's Paradise today. Bless you!

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30-31

For other reflections on this quote, please visit Lori at All You Have to Give.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In Other Words--A Cheerful Giver

In "Other" Words has a new home! Each week a quote is given for you to blog about on the following Tuesday. Please visit Amy's site on Friday's to get the quote (and also enjoy her truly amazing site!)

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."
~ Mark 12:41-44 ~ NIV

I love giving. I love gift giving. I love volunteering and giving my time. I love sharing my talents. I have been blessed with a temperment that enjoys giving. And, I am married to someone whose spiritual gift is giving. So, in our household, there is no question about bringing our tithes and our offerings. The question is "how much?" And, just as God poured into us a spirit of giving, He has also poured upon us blessing that we are able to share with others. Although our hearts are to serve God and give Him glory, I often wonder if we are more like the rich people in this story and less like the widow.

Let's face it, compared to the rest of the world we are rich. We cannot deny it. I have more spare change that has been collected over the past year in the basket to be taken to the bank than much of the third world will see this year. Even in the months that I am holding my breath between paychecks or seeing more bills that month than I am comfortable with, I know that the resources are there and I have options that many people do not have. So, however generous I may be, I am not giving at a point of sacrifice. I am not the widow, giving all that I have.

But, I pray, that I am also not the rich person giving to be seen, or out of habit, or without thought. I don't want to be a careless giver. I want to be diligent and thoughtful as I give. I want to give privately--where it is between me and God and no one else.

I believe that God has gifted me with the ability and willingess to give. But I believe that it is also taught. I was blessed to grow up in a home where giving the tithe was the norm and sharing any abundance was done discreetly and reverently. I learned it by watching it. I also learned it because I was expected to tithe my allowance from the time I began to receive one. And, as I pray for the persons my girls will become, one thing I pray is that they will have hearts that are tender to sharing with others. But, I'm also trying to teach them by example that we give out of love for God.

We don't give allowances in our house. But every Sunday morning my husband hands Jewel a coin to put in the offering bag. (The couple who sit behind us always laugh as she claps and says, "it's time to give money to God"). She gleams with joy as she drops it into the bag. She is the epitome of a cheerful giver. Tears fill my eyes as I watch her develop into the girl God is calling her to be. She gives from a grateful heart, and that is all God asks for.

I may not be the widow, giving it all. But I'm also not the rich man giving for prestige or habit. I'm the person God is calling me to be---giving out of the abundance He gives me with a grateful heart. And that is all that He asks of me...obedience and thankfulness.

Our hostess this week is Beloved Mama. Please join us there to read other meditations on these verses.