Monday, December 27, 2010

White Moments



White is the color Christmas should be, at least for a breath of it- that space between the duty or demand and busy rush of the season. It should be quiet like new fallen snow. It should be blank and reflective for a moment, for one living moment.
But it is not. It is louder and brighter. The white moments don't seem to happen ironically, is over.
By Carol Blackwell

Carol wrote this at our last writer's group on December 20th. I asked permission to copy it here, and then after reading Julie's post it seemed appropriate to post it after Christmas. This is how it is for many of us...and yet it is so special that Julie found a way to rise above, thanks to the gift of our loving Savior. Here's wishing you some white moments this week. It's never too late.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Visiting Blogger

Just kidding. I'm supposed to be a regular contributor here. I thought I'd stop by and wave hello since it's been so long since I've posted anything. I love reading my mom's updates and she does a great job, but I guess I should help her out every once in a while since we signed onto this together. :)

I enjoyed a lovely holiday season with my family. It was the best and smoothest we've ever had. The fact that I'm very pregnant probably has something to do with it, but I hope that there are some things that we've learned that will help future Christmas celebrations be as stress-free.

I had to show you the beautiful tower of treats we received in the mail. It was such a surprise. What is received in the mail is pretty predictable these days, so it was delightful. My sister, Joy, picked this out for us.

There were chocolate-covered cherries...

...nuts, chocolates, pears and apples. So much fun!!

My husband gave me one early gift. These three magazines are a collection of some of the best recipes from Cooks Illustrated Magazine. I really do love Cooks Illustrated. I don't get their magazine, but have tried a variety of their recipes. I didn't do a lot of entertaining or baking this year, but I used 5 recipes out of the entertaining book for my own family. Our Christmas dinner came almost exclusively from it. I was looking for something that was easy to do but still delicious and special for the holiday. We did: French Chicken in a Pot (a whole roast chicken cooked in a dutch oven with the lid on), Scoop and Bake Dinner Rolls (no rolling and cutting!), and Ultra-Creamy Mashed Potatoes. Everything was delicious. Only with Cooks Illustrated do I not worry about testing out recipes before an important meal. Their recipes always turn out. Hurray for my early Christmas gift!! It was a huge help.
The last item I'd like to share is just a personal success this year. Really, it is Christ working in me and I'm so thankful for the growth He has wrought. This is the first Christmas I've ever had where the traditions were truly an enhancement to the celebration of the Incarnation. In the past, the traditions have been more an end in themselves instead of means to the end of celebrating Christ's birth. When they are simply a means, then they are expendable. There's no major letdown over the things we couldn't squeeze in or that didn't work out this year. The traditions enhance the celebration, but they aren't the celebration themselves. Rolling out sugar cookies, stringing cranberries, reading Christmas stories, decorating and hanging lights, doing the Advent Calendar, watching some Christmas movies, making homemade gifts for each other and relatives, and sending out Christmas cards are great as long as they actually serve the purpose. I've always known this is how it should be, but this is the first year that it really was that way. It seemed that we were able to transmit that to the children as well. Every Christian parent wants to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas, but it eludes us as to how to make it seem more exciting than the gifts that are coming. This is the first year that it was so real for me that I was able to make it real in all that we did to celebrate. I'm sharing this because as we reached Christmas day this year, I was so GRATEFUL. It was so much more meaningful and the whole season was smooth and stressless. What a victory! This is a little overflow of the gratitude. :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Light

I love the light in winter, especially around Christmas time. Maybe it's because there is so much less of it during the short daylight hours, that the light at night makes up for days' brevity by being both stronger and more delicate. The daytime sunlight is pale, but the night's moonlight is intense, reflecting off a new snowfall. Dusk and evening are my favorite times at the Christmas season. Last night, the full moon shone down on the white snow with a magical beauty.
We tend to bring light into a focal point in our indoor celebrations as well. Logs on the fire, with flames dancing are incomparable for warmth and comfort. Glowing candles are a wonderful part of our decorations. Whether grouped together short and tall, or used individually, candles provide a soft glow of light. The candlelight bounces from each shiny surface; from the ornament balls on the Christmas tree, to the silver teapot on it's tray, to the crystal icicles hanging in the window, to the gilt frame enclosing a precious photo. It lights up and softens loved faces. I once saw an entire town lit with luminaries which are small paper bags with lit tea light candles snuggled in sand inside. It was magical on a Christmas evening.
And last but of most importance is starlight. As far as we know there were no candles on that first Christmas. But the special star and the light it provided were unique. I am so glad God chose a star to provide guidance and light, blessing all in the path of it's radiance. Jesus was born, the bright morning star of mankind.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Peace amidst the bustle

I woke up this morning and some movement caught my eye across the street. The house there is empty and for rent, making a safe haven. We have a whole group of deer that winter in our housing development. But they usually graze about dusk, going down the street and back, and then move on. But with the snowfall yesterday several good sized does had bedded down across the street and a couple of younger, friskier ones moved about eating right through the snow. It reminded again of how peaceful nature can be, and the instincts of the animals to let the storm pass while they rest. There is a message in that for me...and God sent it in the deer.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christ's Birth

Were earth a thousand times as fair,
Beset with gold and jewels rare,
She yet were far too poor to be
A narrow cradle, Lord, for Thee.
Martin Luther

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Happy Birthday!

December, 1993

As we got out of the car I could see Grandma and Aunt Wilma waiting for us through the dusty plate glass window. Joy was unbuckling the baby from her new infant car seat in back, just as Mom and Dad drove up on the gravel and parked behind us. I looked up at the sign that read 'Oasis Cafe' as it sat perched over the blue roof of the long white building, then thought what a strange place it was for such a special moment in life. Joy had come around the car with Kory in her arms, and she looked too young to be a mother. Her blond hair was pulled into a sideways ponytail and it swung as she walked over to the screen door. The town of Juntura was perpetually lonely, only a rest stop on the long drive from somewhere to somewhere else. Both sides of the highway here were bordered by lovely tall cottonwood trees, now December barren and moving restlessly in the lonely winter wind.
John took my hand and pulled open the screen door and pushed open the wooden one to let me enter. The smells of hot food, strong coffee and wood smoke assailed me as a blanket of warm air surrounded me. On this December day it was good to be here. There were a few scattered tables and chairs about, and a few dilapidated booths along the wall under the plate glass window. A handful of customers barely looked around as we came in, and most sat on red topped stools at the gray Formica counter. Grandma and Aunt Wilma were at a corner table big enough to seat the seven of us. I could tell by their exited smiles just how eager they were to meet Grandma's first great-great grandchild.
We threaded our way over to them and chairs scraped as they stood for hugs all around. The next several minutes were spent oohing and aahing over Kory and taking their respective turns holding our tiny dark-haired girl. For those minutes no one existed in the restaurant, indeed in the whole world, except the six of us and our oh-so-special girl.
Finally we settled down in our seats with Kory fastened into her baby carrier. We now turned our attention to the menus on the table, thinking about what each would like for dessert and something hot to drink with it. By the time the older, tired waitress came for our orders we had all decided. We told each other about our trips, Mom, Dad, John, Joy, Kory and I from Bend and Burns, and Grandma and Aunt Wilma from Ontario. We congratulated ourselves on meeting half-way, as if it was our doing that a restaurant had magically sprung up conveniently located at just the half-way spot. As we ate, we told about Kory's birth with all the pride of a brand new mother, and new grandparents still struggling to decide what she would call us. Mom couldn't leave Kory in her carrier, but wanted to hold her while she ate. She made it most of the way through her dessert before Kory let it be known that she wasn't content to be sitting quietly anymore. Grandma got up and walked around the table to take Kory, then walked back and forth with her, patting her back just the way she had done with her mother before her, and her papa before that. Grandma Brown just had a way with babies.
We continued talking excitedly about Grandma's birthday celebration that we had just attended in Ontario for her 100th birthday. Grandma and Kory were 100 years apart in age, and as I watched them together I thought how lucky Kory was to meet her very special great great grandmother.
Soon cameras came out and we re-arranged chairs to accommodate a grouping of five generations. The impact of that hit me with happy tears as I watched the visible blessings of Grandma's years on earth crowd around her. None of us knew how much longer we would have this precious person with us, but for this hour, this moment, we were all here in a happy blend of timelessness.