Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
For unto you is born this day
And this shall be a sign unto you;
Wrapped in swaddling clothes,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O Come, All ye Faithful*
O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him,
Born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.
God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo! He abhors not the Virgin's womb:
Begotten, not created; Refrain
Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God
In the highest; Refrain
See how the shepherds,
Summoned to his cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither
Bend our joyful footsteps; Refrain
Child, for us sinners
Poor and in the manger,
We would embrace thee, with love and awe;
Who would not live thee,
Loving us so dearly? Refrain
Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing; Refrain
*The text to the Carol” O Come All Ye Faithful” was originally written in Latin (“Adeste Fideles”) and was intended to be a hymn; it is attributed to John Wade, an Englishman. The music to "O Come All Ye Faithful" was composed by fellow Englishman John Reading in the early 1700s. The tune was first published in a collection known as "Cantus Diversi" in 1751. In 1841 Rev. Frederick Oakley is reputed to have worked on the familiar translation of "O Come All Ye Faithful" which replaced the older Latin lyrics "Adeste Fideles".
Thursday, December 18, 2008
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"One clear cold Christmas Eve the famous Reformation leader Martin Luther was walking home through the woods. As it was a beautiful starry night, he paused for a moment to gaze at the sky in reverent meditation. He was in a grove of tall pines. Their fragrance reminded him of incense and the peaceful murmur of the wind in their branches sounded like a congregation at prayer. From where he stood it looked as though thousands of stars had settled on their branches. He proceeded to cut a tiny tree and took it home where he decorated it with small candles in metal holders to recreate his experience for his children. That glittering tree became a tradition for his family in the many Christmasses to come just as it has for many other families around the world."
* I know it is a legend (unproven) and many Christians choose not to celebrate with a tree, but we love setting up our "Memory Tree" each year. We delight in the ornaments which serve as souvenirs throughout the years. God has blessed us richly and our little ornaments remind us like Ebenezer stones. [‘Samuel then took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Jeshanah and named it Ebenezer, for he said, "The Lord has certainly helped us."' 1 Samuel 7:12]
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He is the reason for the season
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Wednesday, December 17, 2008
If I were a shepherd,
If I were a wise man,
Yet what I can I give him—Give my heart.
English Poet (1830 – 1894)
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Love all lovely,
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
English Poet (1830 – 1894)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I’ve spent considerable time sipping tea and staring out the window at the delightful gift of a wintry dressing of the finest ermine-like snow.
The heaviness portends of portly snowmen, round and full-girthed with the sticky wet snow. Alas, that same boon to those prone to snow frolicking has proven injurious to a few of my more delicate trees. A flowering plum has keeled and snapped all lower branches from the weight collected amongst the lingering leaves steadfastly clinging beyond the normal dates for her deciduous dance. Likewise, a healthy dogwood adorned thickly with finger-like branches has gathered snow in great handfuls like snowballs and taxed her arm ‘til it gave way. My left hand brandished broom and rode to the rescue of many a rose and more bearing down under the heavy gift from the snow queen. Judicious pruning and careful cutting should combine with future springtime spurts of growth to yield a new bit of character to these prominent players in my landscape games.
Perfection in the garden ranks right next to perfection in life – a wasted effort which actually blinds one to the unique beauty wrought from the triumph over adversity. My most beautiful willow started out as an injured twig sold for a fraction of its original cost. Soon after I planted it out along with my “perfect specimens” it set about shooting out fresh new growth which overpowered its stunted roots and come the first snowfall in an October storm he keeled and shifted into the most horrid shape. Oh! I left him to heal, fearing a setting of the trunk would snap it entirely. I planned to replace it the following spring. Yet when the sap rose, this little guy grew down and reinforced his footing before setting about the business of bushiness. I let him be and watched in wonder as he grew a rare beauty of form and billowiness that the more fortunately-situated willows lacked. In the end, my “Charlie Brown” willow stands out majestically while two of those “perfect” willows died the next summer from root-bound limitations – I guess you could say they died of thirst.
(My "Charlie Brown" Willow -- back right)
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters,
And that spreadeth out her roots by the river,
And shall not see when heat cometh,
But her leaf shall be green;
And shall not be careful in the year of drought,
Neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
So, I gaze out at my badly damaged plum and feel a tiny tingle of anticipation mixed in with the sorry sight. What souvenir will result from the harsh fingerprints left by this wintry visitor?
Immediately I think about my afternoon in ER yesterday and the many hurting people I encountered. Being free from infectiousness, I freely visited with those around me. Light polite chatter deepened as the time passed. Tears flowed over heartbreaks of long ago that left the prospects of this Christmas bleak. Sorrow, suffering, anger, and a host of other spirit-stifling attitudes wounded far deeper than the flesh breaks and bodily failures that brought them to the doorstep of a doctor. I won’t pretend to be happy about my poorly-timed attempt to intercept the sofa pillow my son swung about wildly, nor will I whitewash my disappointment when I awoke this morning to feel the casted heaviness, thus dispelling the hope that I had dreamed the event – but, I will admit joy in knowing God allowed me the opportunity to encourage many in ER that might have otherwise sat steeped in sadness, lonely in the midst of a crowd. I count it all joy.
Today I have the peaceful interlude of a snow day in which to whittle down my ambitious plans for the holiday celebrations in light of my limited abilities. Christmas joy will arrive even though my soufflé may be replaced by a pizza, or my Christmas pudding by a simple crisp. Our joy comes from gathering together at the makeshift cradle to celebrate the greatest gift . . . a Savior born humbly in a stable.
As our house fills up with friends and family my cast will be gone, but the fingerprints of this strained event have the power to shape these holidays with a unique beauty as I let the expectations melt away revealing unexpected beauty . . . and triumphant joy.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
from Winnie the Pooh
When they saw the star,
Saturday, December 13, 2008
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I can hardly believe you have arrived at double digits already! How did 10 years fly by so quickly? You have been the sweetest surprise from the moment you entered into being. Your natural ebullience brings smiles to faces and joy to hearts. It should come as no surprise that you have chosen to spend your special day serving others as a junior hostess at our church's annual Christmas Tea. This year's theme, "Through the Eyes of a Child," lends extra special meaning as you host a "Birthday Party for Jesus" on your own birthday.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of [children]
When you arrived in the wee hours of that Sunday morn, the 13th of December in 1998, you not only filled our quiver, as child #5 -- you filled our car! Our favorite Christmas gift that year came wrapped in a pink blankie. You were loved by all instantly with your winning ways. Blessings have overflowed from your smile, your spunk, and your special view of the world. Your unique and wonderful gifts remind us that God does not use cookie cutters when He fills a family. Instead He crafted only one like you. We are so blessed to have received such a lovable and loving gift.
~~ Happy Birthday, Dear Rachel ~~
~~ Happy Birthday to You! ~~
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek
Lydia: "Mom, remember I need cookies or something to share tonight when we go caroling."
Mom: "Sure, I remember. What do you want to make?"
Lydia: "I don't especially like cooking . . ."
Rachel (enthusiastically): "I DO! I'll make something!"
And off she dashes to retrieve her favorite cookbook:
Next she mixes with a wooden spoon,
. . . and microwaves the mixture on low (power 3) until melted, smooth and glossy. Rachel checks the consistency about every two minutes until it reaches that smooth fudgey stage.
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Aaaaaahhhhh . . . another happy ending at day's end. (And remnants of fudge lying in a bowl on the counter -- where's my willpower? I know I had it here just a minute ago.) ; )
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I just love the cozy setting that becomes forced upon our gathering room when the Christmas tree takes up its place in front of the window. In summertime we live out of doors and when we finally come in we sprawl and drape ourselves about the furnishings with pool-soaked exhaustion, but only for a moment, as the black summer's night sprinkled with myriad twinkling stars beckons us back out to look up in wonder, and then dance blithely under the merry paper lanterns swinging from each nearby tree. But come fall we draw indoors a bit more, gazing out windows at the be-jewelled splendor of Autumn's last waltz. When the chill wind of winter blows we huddle near the fire, nestle down into the downy-pillowed sofas, and reach for a wrap to snuggle under as we balance cocoa and book before the dancing fire.
Though our winter be short compared to that of my northernmost friends, we enjoy each moment without complaint. Even now, as we have all dug to the bottom of chests in search of fluffy footwear, we chatter with excitement about the forecasted snow possibilities. Thick hearty stews laced with earthy root vegetables bubble merrily on the stove and yeasty accompaniments rise under cottony coverlets. Winter lies just around the corner and we have thrown wide our hearts to welcome the chilly season home again.
Daily I devote a string of quiet moments to prayer and soulful reading.
These days I have chosen books in celebration of the forthcoming Noel. My latest reads include Ruth Bell Graham's "A Quiet Knowing Christmas," a delightful mix of Graham-family traditions, historical information, foreign customs, backgrounds of stories and hymns, and mouthwatering recipes perfect for treating one's family. Along with that I am reading through Chuck Swindoll's "A Bethlehem Christmas," a re-telling of the Christmas event through first-person narrative of those in the moment. Richly researched and gently relayed . . . aaaah, I never tire of hearing the Christmas Story. My daily time in Scripture this year finds me more in Isaiah than in Luke or Matthew, but oh the treasures I have found in the foretelling of the Great Event. My heart sings with joy as I journey along the pilgrim's path to the lonely crib of wonder. Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Over the years I have collected a vast array of reading material unlocking thoughts and histories and joys of the advent season. I gather them together and place them within easy reach for the casual reader, and provide a nesting spot with facile access to teapot and cup for those of us more inclined to hunker down for a deep read. Footstools and quilts complete the invitation. So many come and enjoy at the fount of knowledge spilling forth in our "family room."
enJOY, my sweet friends. : )
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Restored. Rejuvenated. Rested.
I laid down my Isaac. Like Abraham's obedient offering of his son as a sacrifice to God, I placed something precious upon the altar and stepped back in tears. Whereas God instructed Abraham to take down His son and substitute a ram, God did not give my precious object a reprieve, but burned it up and supplied grace in its place. I received the blessed touch of His healing ways.
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An unnecessary burden weighed heavy on my heart for years, but as long as I kept moving along with the decorations and the menus and the holiday gaiety I thought it would melt away like excess body fat (yeah, we all know how well that theory works with extra pounds and sorrows of the heart and so on).
As I embarked on the annual tree trimming foray, I tackled the lights and the garland, as I always do. When finished, I got ready for my favorite part – placing The Star. But wait! Has anyone seen the Tree Top Star? No, nope, uh-uh . . . nowhere to be found. I looked again and came up empty. I set out on a mission to find that star. That elusive Christmas Star sent me on a hunt through closets, rafters, attics, and more. It HAS to be here!!! I looked. I fumed. I rearranged. I reorganized. I ranted. Still no star.
In the meantime my family decorated the tree and generally ignored me. I popped in to add an ornament here and there, but left again to look somewhere new or look harder in the same places. They cared not whether the star or the angel rested atop the tree. It really didn’t matter to them what material object we supplied on top. The sentiments evoked by the tree spoke volumes of good cheer, celebrations of His birth, and our drawing near to the light regardless of which bauble held the top spot. I knew all that, BUT . . . it all must fit together according to plan. Don’t they see that?
As I toured the house next door a final time I finally broke down in anguish and cried out to the Lord. “Okay, Lord. I’ll forget about the star and use the angel! I’m just too tired to look again and I’m missing the fun back home.” Thus, I laid The Star at His feet and more. You see, I knew (and so did He) that it wasn’t the missing Star that prompted my undoing, but my missing parents. Roughly two years ago my mother suffered another breakdown and delusions and all the rest. She fled the home next door that we had provided for her comfort and she fled all bonds with our family. She chose another path and left us. My father swooped in to take up residence in the vacant house, but since I have barely spent more than a day or two on average with my father each year since he left during my childhood . . . well, I don’t need to give details for you to see the futility of that arrangement. And so, he too chose to retreat into his own world again.
Now, though he hadn’t previously been a part of my life beyond the barest of lip service, when my father left he extinguished a dream I had been carrying around since girlhood. I had always longed for the happy reunion that I know so well from sappy, delightful Christmas stories. You know the ones where the long lost, crusty old grandpa comes back and melts into a puddle of love and the whole family happily splashes around in joy as the credits come up. I had been carrying that hope around MY WHOLE LIFE. In a matter of months I had lost my mother and my father, or rather the hope of them becoming motherly and fatherly. Devastated but determined, I put one foot in front of the other and carried on.
Despite evidence to the contrary, I continued to work out plans and puzzle through the mess. I stoked up the flame of hope; I KNEW I could fix it. Just like searching for the star . . . I knew it was there, but where?? I refused to admit that my determination couldn’t extend my reach to successfully gather back those who had left. When my frustration mounted beyond control I shouted out to God in that chilly garage, “I just don’t understand! Where is that star! And while I’m at it, why am I rattling around in this big old house that I bought for my mother – who left me – and then tried to enjoy a reunion with my father under the same roof – who also chose to leave me . . . AGAIN!!” I wept without an answer. I just stood there crying over all the “stuff” I didn’t have. I didn’t praise God for all of my blessings; I merely bombarded Him with my disappointments.
No light broke through to bathe me in peace. No angelic choir sang to punctuate an epiphanic moment. I simply snuffled away the remains of my sorrow, wiped my cheeks with the back of my hand and decided to carry on, as I always do. In that final tearful denouement I reached out to pick up an empty box lying in the middle of the floor. I’d been walking over and around it as I searched and I decided to heave it back onto the recycle pile, where it had obviously fallen from. When I took hold of the box to toss it away I heard a faint, “Tinkle, tinkle.” I stopped instantly. “No!” I blurted in the silent and chilly garage. I pulled back the cardboard flaps and espied the glass golden star and several other glass ornaments rolling freely in the box. Anything broken? No. It had been sitting in the middle of the garage floor all that time in a cock-eyed box that didn’t “look” like a box capable of holding Christmas decorations. Gary had seen it and passed it by; I picked it up and found it so light that surely it held nothing and walked on by without looking inside.
Laughter broke from my stifled chest. The garbage held the treasure – how poetic . . . how Scriptural . . . how humbling. I let go as I laughed . . . let go of the notion that I must have parents by my side to complete the picture of Christmas, to be pleasing in God’s eyes and in the eyes of the world. I thought how Mary and Joseph traveled away from family as they followed God’s path. How they saw the goodness of God and His loving ways without ever submitting a list of “Musts” for their happiness. I released myself from yet another burden and walked home with a joyful gait, clutching The Star – like a Pearl of Great Price.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Lydia (13) has played the harp since age 8. She began on a lever harp and graduated to a full Concert Grande pedal harp at age 10. Lydia loves to share the gift of music and finds performing a joy. She performs regularly at church and local functions. This Saturday she will share her gift of “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” with those attending the Ladies Christmas Tea at our church.
My quiet, reserved young teenager has always been happy to go her own way and do her own thing. While others race around trimming the tree, she can be found quietly reading or penning her latest work. Her self-confidence and relaxed manner rarely leave her feeling anything but calm. While Rachel clamors to put something on the blog, Lydia shrugs and agrees to think about it.
Lydia arrived one day after her due date, while all my other children arrived a week or more early. She has always set her own pace and floats through life in an unruffled manner that some of us more “hurried” types envy. We have always referred to her as our “Faerie Child” for her love of nature, beauty, poetry, and music. Her differences from others have never caused her alarm. Her self-confidence has been high from the start. We laughingly recall when in a moment of frustration Elizabeth blurted out, “You’re not the favorite of the whole family, you know!” To which Lydia, then aged four, calmly replied, “I’m not? Then who is?”
Without further ado, I present a peek into Lydia’s latest practice session:
AN ETUDE (Fancy way to say study/exercise)
I hope to have "O Holy Night" posted later this week. That's MY favorite!!! ; )
Sunday, December 7, 2008
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Song of Solomon 2:1a
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And there shall come forth