Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In Other Words--Make My Life Bethlehem


“Just as Our Lord came into human history from outside, so He must come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God?”

by ~ Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest

I don't know about you, but it is easy for me to lose the plot during the busyness of Christmas. I can get caught up in the planning, the wrapping, the food, the laughter and the wonderful activities of the holiday. But often, that is at the expense of the meditation on and the preparation for Jesus. I did not grow up in a tradition that celebrated "Advent" and thus did not have the foundation of preparing for the Messiah. As I have focused more and more on that aspect the last few years, I have found that the feeling of chaos or exhaustion leading up to Christmas really has subsided.

And that is a good thing.

Yet I wonder if I am truly preparing for the Messiah's birth for a day or if I'm preparing for Jesus to be a part of me all year?

Around here, Casting Crowns music gets played just about all waking hours. So, I've listened to "While You Were Sleeping" a few hundred times this holiday season. For those who don't know the song, it is a discussion of the carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem" and how that is really an indictment that they missed the coming of the Messiah because they were sleeping. The song goes on to wonder if we in America are sleeping as well. The song challenges me. Am I missing the Messiah because I am focusing on things that are of lesser importance? Or, as Chambers puts it in today's quote, have I made room for my heart and life to be Bethlehem? Is there room for Jesus to take residence in my life? Can he come from eternity and impact my today? Will I allow it?

My word for 2010 is going to be Connect. I will be writing more about that next week, but as a taster part of my goals for the coming year is to come away next December more connected to the wonder and amazement that a Saviour left heaven and entered my reality and saved my eternity. I want to find a deepening relationship with God because I have intentionally connected with him through word and ministry. But that takes time. Time that can already seem like a precious commodity. So, in order for me to have the time to connect more intentionally with him, I will have to take time away from something else. I will have to make room for Jesus. It is about priorities. I want to see more and more in my life where the priority is connecting with the Saviour who resides in me and not just visit him at church a couple of times a week.

Is your life ready to be Bethlehem? Can he come and reside with you? How will 2010 be different for you because of the Lord who has come to impact your life? I pray that the impact is amazing for all of us.

Thank you so much for visiting and participating this week. Please sign the link to your post so that we can come and be encouraged.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How We Do Christmas--Spiritual Emphasis

I would have thought that this edition of "How We Christmas" would have been the easiest to write, but I'm actually finding it the most difficult. I cannot separate Christmas from the spiritual so everything I've already written about in these posts always come back to the fact that we do this because this is the day we celebrate Jesus' coming to the world to save us. The gifts we give are in celebration (we do give the girls three gifts each--reminiscent of the three gifts from the Magi). The candles and decorations are about light and festivity. The creche points to the birth. It is all about the spiritual.

Nevertheless, there are a couple of things that we do that I have not written about already. One is how we celebrated last Sunday evening. Our church has a lovely Carols by Candlelight service each year. The sanctuary is darkened, the candles are lit, the church members who play brass and wind instruments join with the "big" organ to play the Christmas carols in all their glory, members representing all ages come and read the Christmas story in between each carol. It is such a peaceful reminder of the reason we are celebrating. There are refreshements of mince pies and coffee to follow, but we often slip out whilst it is still dark. That allows me, at least, to continue to ponder the wonder of the story that has been told in the darkness.

I've already mentioned that we do a Jesse Tree and Advent Calendar each year. This year the girls have coloured the amazing ornaments offered at my friend V's site, The Paper Dali. It is so much fun to hear them each year reciting the lineage of Jesus. I know that we are planting seeds for the future and I pray that they grow roots that will last deep into their adult Christmases.

We will re-read the Christmas story again and again during December. We remind ourselves that it is Jesus' birth story that is important this time of year. Our dessert Christmas day will be a cake and "happy birthday Jesus" will be sang as we cut it. We will open gifts first thing Christmas morning, but then we will pause and go to church and sing the last verse of "O Come All Ye Faithful" (the other verses are sung throughout December but the last verse only on Christmas morning), light the Christmas candle and rejoice that today the Saviour has come! And, if I'm smart, I'll sit back and watch a little and, like Mary, I will ponder this time in my heart knowing not what the new year holds but understanding I won't pass this way again.

It is all about Jesus for us at Christmas. The wrapping and the presents and the food and the music are all nice, but Christmas would happen without them. But Christmas does not happen without Jesus. That's why we do Christmas the way we do.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord

I pray you all have the Merriest and Safest of Seasons. If you are with family and friends, love on them and enjoy them. If you are on your own this Christmas I pray that you feel the love of the Father that is lavished on you this season. I'll be mostly away from the computer until after New Year as I enjoy my Dad and his wife's visit.

Please visit Lisa at The Preacher's Wife to read more "How We Christmas" posts.

In Other Words--Enjoy but Share


Let us remember the proclamation of the angel: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord”
(Luke 2:10-11).

May our hearts go out to the unconverted people…who have no blessed Christmas day.

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord”
(Nehemiah 8:10).

by ~ Mrs. L.B. Cowman
Streams in the Desert

We are blessed to live with plenty.  Even in these uncertain financial times, when I have been in a place of budgeting better, considering more where the money is to go, we have not gone without.  Instead, we have had blessings poured out.  I know that it is a blessing.  I know that there are many who are not being blessed with outpourings.  I know many who have been caught in job layoffs, in salary reductions, and in other financial difficulties that are causing heart-wrenching decisions.  Their blessings are coming in other ways, that I have not had to accept or experience.  One of our favourite parts of the blessing of German's job and our chosen lifestyle is that we can pass the blessing on to others.  Whether it is our Compassion *daughter* or the orphans in Romania or the ministries of our church, we are in a position to share and we take joy in that. 

Sometimes it is easy to look at what we have and feel guilty, to forget that the giver of the gift chose to give it.  The thing I love about this verse in Nehemiah is that it does not say "curl up and feel bad that you have good things when others don't."  Instead, it reminds us to celebrate and to enjoy what we have alongside the admonition to not forget to share.  Enjoy but share.  What a great way to think about it. 

At this time of year when God has lavished the most important gift of all--His Son--upon us, let us celebrate.  Let us enjoy the gifts of the season--the smells, the laughter, the music and yes the presents and the wrapping and the excess.  But let us never forget to also share with those who would not, who could not, have any of the presents, wrapping or excess without our giving. 

Our hostess this week is Patricia at Typing One-Handed.  Please visit the others writing on this quote.  I'm sure you will be blessed.  Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How We Do Christmas 2009: The Decorating Edition

Again, I'm late to Lisa's party. A bad inflammation of my sciatic nerve has Christmas decorating (and blogging about it) slightly delayed. But here is how I decorate for Christmas.

The Tree:
I grew up with "real" trees, German grew up with "aluminum" trees. Before we met he bought a "fake" tree that looks fairly real. I allow him to keep his tree if he allows me to decorate it rather haphazardly. I like to call it lovingly eclectic!


Many of my ornaments are cross stitched by friends over the years.


Each year I stitch an ornament for each of the girls that illustrate something from that year. When they leave home, I'll give them each a collection of ornaments that tell the date and place Christmas was celebrated and will be a little history of their lives. Here are this year's ornaments. Jewel started piano lessons this year and Flower learned to ride her bike without stabilisers.
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Each year my brother-in-law sends me a special ornament, often blown glass since he knows I love it. This year I believe the girls are old enough that my glass ornaments are back on the tree.


Some of our ornaments are just quirky reminders of things about our life.


This little angel was made out of a doily by a friend. I love it!


The Piano Top:
My Nativity scene and my Menorrah were purchased in Bethlehem when we were blessed with an opportunity to walk where Jesus walked. I love the juxtaposition of the old and the promised.
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The piano also plays host to my Willow Tree angels at this time of year.

The Snow Things:
Since we were married at Thanksgiving time, several of our wedding gifts were Christmas decorations so that we could decorate our first home together. This little church with carolers is one of my treasured wedding gifts.


I love snowmen as long as I don't have to deal with snow! This little hat box snowman is dearly loved by me. He is surrounded by other snow related decorations.


The Nutcrackers:
Germany holds a special place in our hearts. Here is my little collection of nutcrackers bought in Germany, Austria and at German Christmas markets.


The Mantle:
I noticed as I was loading this picture that one of the stockings has fallen. *sigh* The official reason that there are six stockings hanging (as told with a straight face to my children) is that I love a mantle full of stockings. The real reason is my Dad and his lovely wife are spending Christmas with us! And the girls don't know! It will be their Christmas Eve surprise. These poinsettias are usually on my staircase, but I was looking for something different this year. I love how the mantle turned out.


We actually have two focus points of Santa, but I forgot to take the second picture. This little Santa was made by a lovely friend here in the UK. The sleigh was made by our neighbours in Alabama. I love how they look together. My second focus point is our front door that has a hand-tied rug of St. Nicholas that was bought in Myra, Turkey, the home of St. Nick. We try to keep the focus on St. Nicholas the real person and not Santa Claus the fairy tale.


Not pictured is my Jesse Tree that is sadly not very decorated this year since I'm having trouble sitting up for periods of time. The girls have kept up with their advent calendar and we have talked about the Jesse Tree each day even if we have not made the ornaments. My dining room is not pictured but it is decorated with poinsettias. I have not put up my Coca-Cola ornaments this year, but they usually adorn the window of the dining room. The front door welcomes you with a poinsettia wreath (guess what my favourite flower is this time of year?) and the stairwell is laced with gold ribbons that the Christmas cards where Christmas cards are being hung.

There you have it, a tour of my place at Christmas. To see how others are ddecorating this year, please visit Lisa at The Preacher's Wife.

In Other Words--Trust His Hand


“When the trials of life unravel
the fabric of our plans.
When we face the deep confusion
of painful circumstance.
When our feeble strength is broken,
and we stand with empty hands.
That’s when the Father whispers
‘Trust the pattern I have planned.’ “

Lyrics from song, The Weaver

As a quilter I am well aware that sometimes you cut up beautiful fabric into smaller pieces, only to sew them back together. It is in the re-stitching that the patterns are changed that brings a different beauty to the final product. Often that first cut into the fabric is painful to make, but the knowledge of what is to be made makes the cutting of the fabric worth it.

Likewise, as a stitcher I know that you sometimes put a dull colour next to a brighter colour. On its own it is not beautiful, but in relation to the other colours, it reflects and creates new beauty.

It is in the dull and the seemingly destructive that beauty is created in needlearts. Likewise, my Creator uses the dull, the hurtful, the things that would appear to destroy to reflect his beauty in my life.

I've had a serious bout with sciatica this week. Serious enough that I was flat on my back for three days and my doctor did a phone consult to determine if he needed to do a home visit because I could not get to the office. Good medicine collected by wonderfully helpful neighbours have got me moving again. But my Christmas plans for the last few days have been on hold. I could be frustrated with the result. But I have heard the whisper "trust me" and I've been blessed by friends and neighbours help, by watching my girls do things they have not done before and by allowing German to finish the things I wanted to do myself. This slight blip of not being as mobile as I'd like has allowed a golden thread to be woven into the girls' lives that would not have been there otherwise. What I could see as hurtful He sees as an opportunity.

It is no secret that we have encountered some difficult relational things this year. I have struggled against the things that are happening, even as I see God's hand at work. Today, I choose to step back and not see the loss of some relationships as destructive but instead I'll see them as God's weaving new things and people into my life. The bigger picture that only He can see will be beautiful at the end. Golden threads are reflecting through this year. It will be amazing to see what they are highlighting.

If you are struggling and having difficulty seeing past the pain, please take a moment to step back and realize the pain may be the reflector of what is most beautiful in the story. Without the contrast of the pain, the whole beauty might never be seen. Trust the weaver, He knows what it is He is creating in you.

For other reflections on these wonderful lyrics, please visit Loni at Writing Canvas.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In Other Words--Emmanuel!


“If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: “God with us.” We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a Baby in the manger is the truth that this promised Baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth!”

by ~ John F. MacArthur, Jr.

He's not an ambivalent creator who watches with bemusement as we stumble through this world.

He's not a Santa Claus in the sky granting our every wish.

He's not an old man on the judge's bench waiting to hit us with yet another penalty.

He cares deeply for this creation.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

It does not amuse or bemuse Him when we struggle. He is impacted by our pain and our confusion.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. Matthew 23:37-38

He understands our temptations and our struggles.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Hebrews 4:15

He loves to give us good gifts, but he also metes out justice and discipline.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:7-11
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Hebrews 12:7-8

He is Emmanuel.

He is God with Us.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

Praising God that He came to be with and to save sinners like me!

Jen is our hostess this week at Scraps and Snippets. Please come and be blessed.

This is How We Christmas: Quirky Traditions Edition

Lisa at The Preacher's Wife is hosting some holiday themed posts leading up to Christmas. I'm a little late to the party, but arriving nonetheless. The first theme is How We Do Christmas: Quirky Family Traditions. Yes, this is where Santa gets talked about, but this is not the place for debate! Let's just have fun with traditions.

Baking Cookies:
German's *other* family (his best friend's family) always got together the week before Christmas to bake cookies. My grandmother's were both bakers as well, so this tradition is something we love to continue. The girls and I always make gingerbread men and stars and sugar cookies. We try to invite one of their friends to come and help decorate the cookies. We also make butter cookies and shortbread--basically anything German can put in the Pampered Chef cookie press and have fun making all shapes of goodies.

Christmas Lights:
We drive around and view Christmas lights a few days before Christmas. Decorating with outdoor lights is not as prominent here in England as it is in the US, so sometimes this is a challenge. It is growing in popularity. Our first year here we saw maybe a half dozen houses decorated. This year I can see that many from our house, so there should be plenty to view when we go out nearer Christmas.

The Christmas Party:
Every year we attempt to host a Christmas party sometime in December that is filled with games and fun. I have, unashamedly, (ahem)*borrowed* games that a couple used in our Sunday School parties back in our Alabama days. We have a great *open the box* game that everyone always participates with great frivolity. We often have a relay race with obstacles of tasks that have to be performed. All are quite silly (sing Jingle Bells with marshmallows in your mouth) and lead to hilarious stories after. We will have our party this year, but with a much smaller group so the relay is out. I'm still working on finding another suitable party game for a small group.
Whilst the games are the highlight of the party, I love preparing the food. Party foods are my favourites. I'll make spinach dip served in a bread bowl, queso dip, shrimp cocktails, smoked salmon & cream cheese on crackers, bite-size pecan pie tarts, pumpkin bread, and hot cranberry punch. Everyone is asked to bring their favourite snack foods as well. What would you bring to the party? (I might get some new ideas!)

Christmas Eve:
The girls get to open one gift on Christmas Eve (the only gifts under the tree), which are always new pajamas. [Selfishly, this ensures nice pics on Christmas morning.] They look forward to seeing what the new pjs are each year. Then after they go to bed all the gifts appear under the tree.

Father Christmas:
We have never made any emphasis on Father Christmas one way or another. He is just part of the game of Christmas. The girls set out some of the aforementioned cookies for him and may or may not have made a request of a gift from him (this year they have, last year they told us on Christmas Eve what they thought he would bring--they were wrong!) We don't put their gifts under the tree until Santa comes, but they have always known the gifts are from us. They do know that some kids believe differently and that they are not to ever say he isn't real. The girls have three gifts each to open from us plus their stockings. Currently we open gifts first thing in the morning because the church service we attend at 1030 has the kids bring one of their gifts to show off (and to allow the Pastor to play with them).

Jesus' Birthday Cake:
We always bake a cake for Jesus to be our dessert with Christmas dinner. Usually one of the girls will ask us to sing. The rest of Jesus' birthday party is just being together as a family, usually playing a few games or enjoying watching the girls play with all their new stuff.

Boxing Day:

The day after Christmas is a holiday here as well. Last year we took the girls to their very first in-the-cinema film. The local cinema has closed, so I'm not sure what we will do this year. Our main focus is to enjoy family time since Daddy's work will then get busy again (next holiday is not until Easter).

We aren't very quirky in our traditions. We just love having down time as a family. Be sure and check out the linked sites at Lisa's place to see how others are celebrating.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Advent--Wise Men

Each year, my church asks the members to help write Advent devotions to be used in the preparation for Christmas. It is one of the highlights of my year to write for the book. The last couple of years I have then shared what I wrote here. Since today was the day of my devotion, I've chosen today to share with you as well. Hope it encourages you!

The Visitors from the East

Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

The visitors that came to the manger and to the home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus to celebrate his birth all tell us something about the inclusiveness of this Saviour that is born. The shepherds speak to the inclusion of the poor and those who live on the fringes of society. The visitors from the East, the wise men, show us the inclusion of the Gentiles. They show that we, non-Jews, will be welcomed by the Messiah.

Maybe it is that reason alone that the Eastern visitors are my favourite characters in the unfolding drama of Jesus’ birth.

But who were these visitors and would we see them as favourites if they showed up in our churches today? They were, in fact, star gazers. We would call them astrologers, or more derisively say that they were horoscope watchers/readers/believers. They watched for signs of major events and celebrated those events. When they saw the star they were not looking for a Messiah. They were watching for the celebrity happening of the time. They saw the sign and they loaded up their gifts and high-tailed it in the direction of the event. The star that was seen was interpreted to mean that a king had been born. The gifts were representative of what a king’s family would find acceptable. These stargazers were not looking for The King they were looking for a king. They were not excited about meeting a baby that would change history. No they thought that this moment was the event. They had no clue about a Messiah. This was all about importance of an earthly family. So, to answer the question, we probably would not be so excited to see them in our churches today. After all, they believe in the power of the stars and are looking to meet power and celebrity. We (okay I) would most likely look down our(my) nose and believe that they were not really sincere about Jesus.

It is at this point that the story gets the most interesting. They show up at the palace looking for the newborn king. Of course, there is no newborn king at the palace. So inquiries are made. Finally an answer is obtained, “scripture says Bethlehem” the scribes announce. Now at this stage of the story I would think that those scribes, those people who knew the Jewish Scripture and who were, supposedly, looking forward to the day of the Messiah, would be getting excited. I would think that they would say “let’s go and see this thing that has happened.” But, that is not what happens. Instead they just send the Eastern visitors and King Herod says “bring me back a report.” So the Eastern visitors go, find Jesus and somehow in the midst of all of this recognize that this is bigger than just an earthly king being born. They bow and they worship him. They don’t just give him honour, they worship. And when the angel tells them not to go back to Herod, they recognize the message of God and heed it. Meanwhile, those scribes and advisors back at the palace remain clueless.

I wonder sometimes if we truly see the irony in this situation. The “star-readers” (say it with the derision we would feel) see the hand of God and honour Him. The “scribes” (say it with the reverence they would demand) miss that God is moving at all. Why is it that way? Why were the scribes blind to the truth and why did the Eastern visitors see it? I believe that some of it had to do with their willingness to see outside the box. The Eastern visitors were looking for new and wonderful and were willing to go to great lengths to find it. They had flexibility in their view to see a bigger or a different picture. But the scribes were narrow in their view. They understood what tradition said and therefore how the Messiah was supposed to look. They expected a conquering hero not a baby, and no matter how much the baby fit the profile of Scripture it did not fit the profile of tradition. Trusting tradition instead of trusting God caused them to miss the coming of the Messiah completely.

This holiday season, let’s not be so dependent upon tradition that we miss the wonder God may be showing us. Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to a broader view. We may even catch a glimpse of the Messiah that we’ve never seen before.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stitchin' Post Saturday-5 December 2009


How on earth is it December already? I really must finish-finish the Christmas ornaments this week!

I did finish Bethlehem last week and hope to frame it and get it on my mantle before Christmas. I'm so pleased with how it turned out. Was definitely a good impulse buy when we were in Branson this spring.

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Have you finished your holiday crafts? Post a link....I'd love to see them.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

In Other Words--Which Martha am I?


“Martha was busy for Jesus,
and that left her too busy to be with Jesus.”

by ~ Jon Walker
Growing with Purpose: Connecting with God Every Day

Back in my seminary days the big joke was that we were at the "cemetery." When pressed to explain why we would say that, my usual answer was "we spend so much time talking about God it is easy to forget to talk to God." It was true in the world of academic pursuit. Sometimes you forgot to have a relationship with whom you were pursuing.

The same can be true in ministry, whether ministry is vocational, volunteer or serving our families. Sometimes we get so busy doing good stuff for the sake of ministry that we forget to have a relationship with the one calls us to minister. We fill our lives with busy activities that take away the time to sit and listen to God.

I think that sometimes Martha takes too hard of a hit. She may have been busy, but she was teachable. When Jesus encouraged her to pursue the "best thing" she listened. When she confronts Jesus at Lazarus' grave she is not the too-busy-for-relationship person we had seen before. She was pursuing being near Jesus.

That encourages me. Yes, there are times that I am the busy-Martha doing lots of good things but missing the relationship. But I am also the teachable-Martha who can hear when my Lord says "slow down and be with me." In that slowing down I can also be the trusting-Martha who expresses belief that Jesus could save her brother and that they would be together in the resurrection. Just as Martha makes the transformation, so do we. We have seasons where we may get too busy. Praise God he calls us to slow down and teaches us to trust.

This holiday season, I pray that we all can hear the call to slow down and have a relationship with the Saviour who comes. His name, Immanuel, reminds us that he wants to be with us. Let's take the moments to slow down and learn to trust.

Our hostess this week is Debbie at Heart Choices. Please come and join the amazing ladies who write each week. If you would like to share your thoughts on the quote above, we would love to have you join us.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Marriage Monday--Men and Christmas

1st Monday Every Month at Chrysalis

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This month, Marriage Monday prompted us to interview our husbands regarding their views of Christmas.  German obliged with answering the five questions.  I used four of the questions E-Mom posed to E-Dad but I changed question number four since German loves Christmas and is never "not into" the holiday ever.  So, without further adieu, here is my interview with German.

How would you describe your ideal Christmas? (we determined that this meant ideal Christmas season not just one day)
There would be plenty of time off or days with less pressure at work to get more into the mood of Christmas.  Second, there would be lots of time with family--just the four of us and with extended family too.  Third, we would be able to go out and do things like seasonal activities, movies, just walking and talking.  Really, the ideal is just being able to enjoy the whole thing and it not be a chore.

How do you think our expectations differ at Christmas?
I don't have any sense that they do.  We experience opening presents differently, but that is because of how we were brought up--and we expect the other to be different.

What are your thoughts on exchanging gifts?
I hope that this isn't read by lots of people who see all of Christmas gifts as evil! (I assured him it wasn't!)  I don't see anything wrong with giving gifts as long as the focus on the reason for the season is not lost.  Christmas is about showing love and thanks to family and that is why we exchange gifts.  If it happens to coincide with a season that the world likes to do it as well, that is great.

How does the fact that you grew up in a household with a totally secular Christmas impact how you do Christmas now?
Looking back there was no love in how we did Christmas, and there was definitely no mention of Jesus.  So I don't look back fondly at those non-Christian Christmases.  In fact, I can only remember one gift I ever received growing up and have no real Christmas memories.  We never had a real tree because it was messy.  [Christmas ended up being a hassle.]  Now that I know the reason for the season I look forward to Christmas because it is not just [hassle] but it is focusing on Jesus. 
NB:  This discussion continued for quite some time of  how to keep the focus on Jesus but also allow our girls to look back with fond memories when they are adults.

How do you focus on the deeper meaning of Christ's birth?
Christmas is a reminder that Jesus was born to save us because we are sinners.  It is good to have that reminder each year.

There you have it, a slice of Christmas thoughts from German's perspective.  If you would like to see what the other husbands are saying about Christmas, please join us at E-Mom's place.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Although we live away from the US, Thanksgiving still remains my favourite holiday of the year. Maybe it is because it coincides with our wedding anniversary (14 years this week). Maybe it is all the family memories. Whatever the reason, this is the only time of the year I'm homesick.

We will be celebrating on Saturday, introducing British friends to the tradition. Whenever you celebrate, whomever you are with, I pray that your holiday is filled with feasting, fellowship and fun.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

In Other Words--Living Gratitude

“As we express our gratitude,
we must never forget that the highest appreciation
is not to utter words,
but to live by them.”

by ~ John F. Kennedy

Words are easy to say.  Backing up our words with our actions, now that is entirely different.  In the same way that I prefer my children not to apologize and then turn around and do the same thing again, my heavenly Father prefers that I not say one thing and then turn around and do the opposite.

Like saying I am thankful for German's job, then grumbling about the hours he has to work.
Or asserting that I am thankful for the food on the table, and being resentful that I have had to cook it and will have to clean up after the meal.
Or by paying lip service to how thankful I am for my friends, who I in turn take for granted and do not call often enough.

The New Testament story of Jesus healing the lepers reminds us that thankfulness involves action.  First the lepers had to act upon what Jesus told them to do!  But when they realized they were healed, only one took the action to go and show his gratitude in worship.  He acted on the feeling.  He didn't just wave and shout "thank you," he did something about it.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"  When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.  Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"
~Luke 17:11-18~

I need to show my gratitude more freely in my actions, not just with pretty words. I need to live out my praise!

How are you living out your gratitude today?

Tami at The Next Step is our lovely hostess this week.  Please visit her and encourage her (and see her great take on this quote).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stitchin' Post on a Sunday--22 November 2009


It's the weekend again, and time for a Stitchin' Post.  I've been thinking Christmas around here this week.

Here is the status of my Bethlehem silhouette that I'm stitching:

I completed Bent Creek's Winter Row this week as well:
Photobucket  Photobucket

So, what are you stitching this week?  I'd love to see links in the comments.

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


The last two days of our Turkey holiday we visited the seaport of Kusadasi and the ruins of Ephesus.  The juxtoposition of the the new city with the huge cruise ships a few miles from ancient ruins was a treat.  Our hotel looked out over the sea and we could see the ships come and go.  It was lovely to wander up and down the seafront and largely experience local life after the boats pulled out for the evening.

Ephesus itself was amazing.  It takes my breath away to walk on streets that old, to see places that Paul and Timothy and John would have seen.  To stand in the amphitheater and imagine what it was like in its prime.  The girls even went down on the stage and sang "Here I am to Worship" to the crowd.  It was great!  Although the library ruins are cool, my favorite part of Ephesus were the houses on the slopes.  This was an extra charge, but I had read about them the night before and knew I wanted to see them.  Breathtaking.  This is where current excavation is taking place and we could see them piecing together marble walls, uncovering mosaic after mosaic floor and unearthing amazing frescos on the walls.  It was such a shame that the tour groups all missed it--we had the entire complex to ourselves for an hour! Our budding archaeologist was in heaven.

Here are just a few of the incredible shots we took.  Enjoy!