On the Eighth Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five gold rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.

On this eighth day of Christmas, we’re enjoying a quiet family day in gratitude for how much we have. Not everyone gets to spend his/her life surrounded by love. All of us have ups and downs in our lives, but being surrounded by people you love makes it all worth it.
My wish for the new year is to be the kind of person who spreads hope, love, and joy where ever I go.

What are your hopes for the new year?

Merry Christmas!

On the Fourth Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me four calling bird, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
4-calling-birds
As I start work on this fourth day of Christmas, I’m listening to my all-time favorite Christmas CD: John Berry’s O Holy Night. It’s contains some of my favorite songs, and I love John Berry’s voice.
My husband and I had conversation last night about how we could better honor the Christmas season. We decided to exchange one small gift each day next year. We set a limit of $10 per gift with handmade gifts being the preference. I’m actually really excited about finding or making him gifts throughout the year.
Today, I’m wondering what things I can bring from Christmas season into Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. I deeply desire a life where the peace and grace of Christmas are carried through the year.

What is your Christmas wish?
Merry Christmas!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_iLXNSIaYc]

On the Third Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree.
FrenchHens
On this third day of Christmas, it’s (relatively) warm and rainy here in Tennessee. I’ll spend the day in my home office with my wax warmer on to cover the scent of wet dog. 😉 I’ll be enjoying Michael W. Smith’s Strings of Christmas while I work.
After work, we’ll spend a quiet evening eating leftovers and enjoying Live Free or Die Hard. I’ll also be starting part two of Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve never seen the movie (an probably never will), but I’m enjoying the book immensely. For us, snuggles and quiet time on the couch are a great way to be present and enjoy the holiday.

How are you working to be present?
Merry Christmas!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5rMQ6P12WY]

On the First Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. 🙂

Really what he gave me was help getting my desk set up complete. I still need to find just the right ergonomic keyboard for my personal computer and tidy up/zip tie my cords, but I’m almost set up to be able to run my work system and writing system from the same desk. Big necessity for my office space!!!
We had Chinese with our only unattached daughter and are settling in for Die Hard marathon.

Merry Christmas!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTFG_nvreoI]

Holiday Reflections

ChristmasPresents

For the first time in three years, I’m actually getting commercials. In our new home, our Spectrum internet service comes with a TV app that has 25 channels. Now that the days are shorter, I can’t be outside until 8:30-9 o’clock, so I’ve been settling in for some Property Brothers on HGTV on Wednesday nights.

I’ve been surprised at the number of commercials versus actual show. I know the statistics, but to actually watch it… WOW.

What I find more troublesome though is the message behind all the advertisements. Your wife will only know you love her if you find the perfect piece of jewelry. Your kids won’t feel loved if you don’t by them the latest toy, cell phone, etc. Your husband won’t feel loved if he doesn’t get a new grill, toolbox, car kit, etc.

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To Santa or not to Santa?

HOT HOT HOT, HOT CHOCOLATE!There’s been a screenshot making the rounds on social media. I’ve included it below, so you can read it for yourself. It asks parents to stop giving their children expensive gifts from Santa, so poor children won’t think they’re less important or less valuable to Santa.
It seems innocent enough on face value, but if you dig in, it couldn’t be more political. It covers issues of religion, parenting, and socioeconomics all in one. A loaded bullet for sure!
As friends and family have shared the post, I’ve lurked, reading the arguments in the comments. Some parents think that children young enough to believe in Santa shouldn’t be getting iPhones and iPads. Some parents think other parents should stop coddling their kids. The list goes on and on.
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Struggling to Find the Light

I’ve always struggled in the winter. Not only does the cold slow me down, but the shorter, darker days leave me depressed and unmotivated. I’m normally a health nut, eating right and exercising every day, but this time of year, I indulge in cookies and donuts and am lucky if I hit 5,000 steps on my Fitbit Alta HR. The farm chores seem harder and less rewarding.
To add to the depression, I’m put off by the obligations of parties and gift exchanges that have so very little to do with the season of Advent. I enjoy the quiet contemplation that fits so well with Advent, but I live in a world that calls people to shop until they drop and to attend one party after another.  Instead of preparing the way for the Lord, the world around me consumes and consumes and consumes some more.
For me, Christmas existed to remind me of how much I wasn’t like others. As a kid, I hated opening box after box of things I didn’t really want, pretending to love each one.  As a mother, I hated the ridicule I received because I taught my daughter the stories of Saint Nicolas rather than following along with American traditions of Santa Claus. As a Christian, I resent being told to celebrate the season when it isn’t here yet and being expected to prep for the next holiday when for me it’s still Christmas. Continue reading

A Quiet Christmas

StPaulsChristmasEveAt church on Christmas Eve, several people asked me what my plans were for Christmas Day.  Most were surprised to find out that my husband and I would be spending a quiet day at home with our animals. Our only plans were to meet my mother at IHOP for lunch.
Today is the fourth day of Christmas, and my husband and I have both gotten the question, “What did you get for Christmas?”  Again, people are surprised when we either dodge the question or admit that we didn’t exchange gifts on Christmas.  People are surprised to learn that we haven’t put up a tree in years.  Not since the children were small enough to want to make Christmas decorations.
Most people assume that we have something against Christmas or that we have bad memories and don’t want to celebrate.  Neither are necessarily true.  We care very deeply about the holiday, but we both prefer to focus on the Christian holiday rather than the common American traditions.  In fact, the older I get the more I feel like the traditional trappings of Christmas distract from my ability to appreciate and celebrate the Christian meaning of the holiday.
Nativity_tree2011More and more, I find myself wanting to deeply embrace the religious experiences of Advent and Christmas.   I want to spend the 4 weeks leading up to Christmas not at parties or out shopping but in contemplation and reflection.  I don’t want to give or to receive material things but rather want to give and to receive acts of kindness and love with no monetary worth.  On Christmas, the only activity I really care to participate in is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
For some, this may seem restrictive or puritanical, but I’m finding that more I allow myself to indulge in this desire, the closer I grow in my relationship with Christ and in my communion with others.  I’m finding that finally admitting my feelings about Christmas and being with a spouse who shares my feelings is incredibly liberating.  I am free to simply be, living in the knowledge that God is the gift of the season.
What did I do for Christmas?  I sang to the Lord, serving in the choir of my church with my husband and daughter in the congregation.  I spent time with my mother, who is missing her childhood home, her siblings, her other children, and her grandchildren.
What did I get for Christmas?  The Lord our God became incarnate, so he would understand our life, our pain, our joy, our sin, and our death.  In the days ahead, our God will exist with us as his Son, our Savior Jesus the Christ.  Our God will sacrifice his only son to pay for our sins and to create a new covenant with us.  What more could anyone ask for?

Merry Christmas

Yes, you read that correctly…  I said Merry Christmas, because us Episcopalians are still celebrating Christmas.  We have 12 days of Christmas, ending on Epiphany (January 6).
In our home on Christmas morning, there was no tree, no unwrapped gifts, and no big plans.  My husband was under the weather and napping.  I had a sinus headache from the wonky, stormy weather we’re having in Middle Tennessee.  BUT…  I couldn’t have been happier or more grateful.
We live a very blessed life, and the only thing that could make that first day of Christmas more perfect would be some sunshine.
Here are just a few of the reasons this is one of the best Christmases of my life:

  1. We’ve been married for 7 years and have never been more in love or more devoted to our marriage.
  2. Our children and grandchildren are healthy and happy.  In fact, there is another grandchild on the way!
  3. We have three of the most wonderful dogs you could have; they make us laugh, cuddle with us when we’re sick or sad, and love us unconditionally.
  4. We have three awesome horses that keep Mom happy.  (Happy wife, happy life, right?  😉 )
  5. We have two cats…  We think they love us.  They’re cats, so we’re not sure.
  6. I have a great job working with good people doing good things in the world.
  7. We want for nothing; we have a roof, 4 walls, food, clothes, and tons of love.
  8. I’m an Episcopalian, so we have a loving, welcoming church family that extends beyond our church through out the Diocese of Tennessee and even into a few other states.
  9. We each have a purpose, a calling to drive us and to get us up every morning.
  10. I have friends that are kind, generous, beautiful people; they make others lives better by really connecting with and doing for others.

Bear
There are so many people in the world that don’t have simple things like a home or food or a closet full of clothes.  There are so many more who are lonely or unhappy, dealing with illness or abuse, or just lost.  We are none of those things.  Our life isn’t perfect.  No one’s is.  We have ups and downs and bumps in the road just like everyone else.  BUT…  We have everything we need to face any challenge that comes our way and more love than either of us could have ever imagined or wished for.  How could we be more blessed?
The saddest part about the commercialization of Christmas has been the focus on what we don’t have.  I don’t have an expensive car, and he definitely didn’t go to Jared’s!  I don’t have a fancy home fit for big holiday parties.  I don’t have the best truck and horse trailer.  I don’t wear expensive clothes.
At the end of the day, who cares?  None of those things will make me happier or more fulfilled.  The things that give me the greatest joy are already present in my life, and knowing that is what make life good.
The secret to real happiness?  An attitude of gratitude.  An acknowledgement that you are blessed and have everything you could ever need.
What are you grateful for this Christmas?  What has brought joy into your life?