Tag Archive | Christmas

Company’s Coming!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 6: OPEN THE FRONT DOOR … COMPANY’S COMING!

And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen.
– Ward Elliot Hour

Several years into our marriage Doug informed me we would NOT be entertaining house guests ever again. That is, until I learned not to be a PSYCHO when company was coming.

Ouch.

But he was right. Perfectionism reigned and no one–parent or child–was allowed to sit down until everything in the house was as picture-perfect as we could get it. “You’re no fun when company’s coming,” he complained. “And you make life hell for everyone else.”

That really got my attention. I love having company and I certainly didn’t want to make my family crazy.  So I had to learn to lower my standards, for myself and for my house.  And I’m so glad I did!

Years, maturity, and perspective have shown me that my house guests don’t generally care as much about what my house looks like as I do. In fact, it’s not about the house at all … hospitality is about loving people. When I think about the homes I’ve  enjoyed visiting the most, they’ve not been the ones that were the most perfect. They’ve been the ones that were the most welcoming.

This evening Dave and Katrina, our Australian/UK friends from California arrived.  They’ve spent the last several years’ worth of holidays with us and are just like family. Friday Tyler and Lexi will roll in. The rest of the kids and significant others will show up Christmas Day, along with both sets of parents and a single-dad friend with his son.  It’s going to be a houseful!

The house looks pretty good if you don’t look too closely.  And I’m not stressed out about it. It’s full of lights, good food, music, games, presents, family traditions, Christmasy-stuff (pretty but not too Better Homes and Gardens), and lots of love.

It’s full of crazy people, too, but I know I can safely say it’s not because I made them that way getting ready for company. They got that way quite handily all on their own. But that’s what makes it all twice the fun.  🙂

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  ~Hebrews 13:2

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It’s a Wrap!

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 5: WRAP THE GIFTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS EVE!

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.  Don’t clean it up too quickly.  ~Andy Rooney

Kind of funny, thinking about how quickly UNDONE will be all my time and effort spent making packages look beautiful. And I won’t mind a bit.

One thing is different these days, though … and that’s getting all my presents wrapped BEFORE Christmas Eve.  How many years did Doug and I drop into bed bleary-eyed at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve after feverishly wrapping, wrapping, wrapping … only to be roused around 5:00 a.m. by little ones bouncing on our bed anxious to open their stockings??!!

(I cringe just thinking about it. I don’t miss that part. I look AWFUL in the Christmas morning photos from those years.)

So this evening I’ve been wrapping presents (in between pulling batches of Chocolate Crinkles out of the oven). And hooray! This year they’re almost all wrapped ahead of time (just a few left to go) and under the tree, reminding us that the Big Day is only FIVE DAYS AWAY.

Super exciting to anticipate spending Christmas Eve being IN the moment, enjoying the festivities … and sleeping. 🙂

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” ~James 1:17

The Great Send-off

(even if they won’t arrive by Christmas)

“If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.”   ~George MacDonald

I can count on one hand, if that, the number of years I have actually mailed Christmas cards IN TIME for them to be received by Christmas.

But timing is hardly the point.

One my MOST FAVORITE things about Christmas is the cards and letters that keep us connected with people whose lives and paths have crossed ours through the years.  Of course, these days with Facebook and all, some might argue that we don’t need Christmas cards anymore … we can chatter with far-flung friends 24/7. But you can’t hang a Facebook post on your bulletin board, your refrigerator, the garland on your stair bannister, or your kitchen window (my newest way to display photos of dear friends; thank you Lisa G. for the idea!). Facebook posts flash across your screen, seen once then (pretty  much) lost forever in cyberspace.

You can send a generic Facebook post in thirty seconds on your phone while waiting in line at a fast food joint. Sending a Christmas card, on the other hand, says …

… you mean enough to me that I stopped my busy life for a few minutes to put something in writing (how old-fashioned!).

… I care enough to spend time, money, and thought to send you a personal message and something tangible to let you know you’re being remembered and thought of warmly.

… I am grateful for the deposit you made in my life at some point, many years ago or maybe just last week.

… Christmas is special and so are you!

So that’s what I’m doing this evening … putting on a movie, munching on Doug’s spicy rendition of Mom’s Nuts ‘n Bolts recipe, and addressing envelopes … maybe with you in mind!

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers…” Philemon 1:4

Last-Minute Advent

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 3: LAST-MINUTE ADVENT

Let’s approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush.”  ~Anonymous

I was an abysmal failure at Advent this year.

In years past, when our kids were younger, celebrating Advent as a family was the way we stayed connected to the “Reason for the season” throughout the holidays. Around the dinner table each night we’d light the candles, read Scriptures, and sing Christmas songs. We made our own wreath. We read fun Christmas stories. The kids colored pictures and argued over who got to light and blow out the candles.  It was fun (except for the arguing).

But with the kids getting older and starting households of their own, busy lives and schedules these days just don’t seem to lend themselves to the whole family being together every evening. Not to mention, one of the kids spent most of the Advent season an ocean away! This year, anyway, Advent just kind of fell by the wayside…

So, tonight we simply lit all four candles at once. (After all, it’s about the heart, right, not about the ritual?) And with any luck, we’ll be able to do the same each night this week, as every day our household swells with more family (and friends) coming home for Christmas.

Want to join us in a last-minute Advent? You just need five candles (each one represents a different aspect of the Christmas story), an evergreen wreath if you can find one (to us it symbolizes the eternal life we have in Christ), and a Bible to look up the verses.

Candle #1: The Prophecy Candle (Anticipation and Longing) – Isaiah 9:2-4, 6 – O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Candle #2: The Bethlehem Candle (Preparation) – Isaiah 40:3-5; Micah 5:2 – O Little Town of Bethlehem

Candle #3: The Angels’ Candle (Rejoicing) – Luke 2:13-14; 1 Peter 1:8 – Angels We Have Heard on High

Candle #4: The Shepherds’ Candle (The Good News) – Luke 2:8-20; Romans 10:13-15 – The First Noel

Candle #4: The Christ Candle (for Christmas Eve) – John 1:1-18 – Joy to the World

The word “Advent” literally means “coming.” How perfect! We celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ to this world. And we’re so excited about kids and new spouses and extended family and friends who are coming to our home this season, as well. A last-minute Advent will help us get our hearts ready. It will be fun. And hopefully no arguing. 🙂

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; for those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine. ~Isaiah 9:2

Yay! for Christmas Cookies

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 2: FAMILY COOKIE RECIPES

“A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand.” ~Anonymous

I am Scottish on my mom’s side–which makes me predisposed to love things like Celtic music and dancing (love the bagpipes and the Highland Fling!), plaid, argyle, woolen scarves, and SHORTBREAD.  (The tightfisted-with-money part of being Scottish somehow escaped me, which I’m a little sad about because I think that might have been a helpful quality. Oh well, you can’t have everything.)

Today I am baking Christmas cookies with my girls. This shortbread recipe has been in my family since who knows when and is my earliest memory of a FAVORITE Christmas cookie. And the dough tastes great, too! Hayley made this batch.

Whipped Shortbread: 1 c soft butter, 1-3/4 c flour, 1/2 c icing sugar, maraschino cherries. Cream butter thoroughly. Combine and add dry ingredients at low speed on blender. Roll in small balls, press in a piece of maraschino to the top of each. Bake @ 325 for 13 minutes.

I believe it’s important to not just make DELICIOUS foods on holidays, but to make them with MEANINGFUL recipes. The kind that evoke memories of special people and special times–or that make you feel connected to whom and where you came from. For our family, that means the Lawrence family’s ubiquitous Chocolate Crinkles and Snickerdoodles. Muddy Buddy’s a la Auntie Deanna.  Grandma Magner’s Nuts ‘n Bolts. And for Christmas dinner, Aunt Ethel’s Cranberry Christmas pudding (simmered on the stove top in a coffee can to be especially authentic).  With caramel sauce.  Num.

Family traditions are important. Family is important, period. Whom and where you came from is an important part of who you are, whether you like it (or them) or not. It keeps you connected to the bigger picture in life.

I am grateful for a family who loves God, loves each other, loves me, and loves Christmas cookies.  🙂

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother … and your mother …  And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” 2 Timothy 1:5


Eggnog in My Coffee

CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN DAY 1: EGGNOG IN MY COFFEE

“Many merry Christmases, friendships, great accumulation of cheerful recollections, affection on earth, and Heaven at last for all of us.”                 ~Charles Dickens

Ten days till Christmas and, as usual, I have more plans than time.

Major priority for my Christmas season: start every day with eggnog in my coffee AND drink it out of a Christmas mug.  Take a deep breath and pray for perspective. (And put Christmas music on the stereo so everyone wakes up in the Christmas mood. Today’s first pick: Josh Groban. Gotta love that voice singing anything, but ESPECIALLY Christmas music. Listen to Thankful.)

Counting my blessings today. Thinking of friends who have lost loved ones and who will have empty places at their Christmas table this year, especially the family whose son’s funeral we attended this afternoon. Gone too soon, too sadly.

I’m not shooting for the most perfect Christmas ever.  Just one that shows my family and friends how much I love them and how grateful I am for their presence in my life.  Their presence.  Not their presents. Even though the presents are fun, too. 🙂

Prayers with my morning coffee, especially for those who are missing loved ones.  Grace and peace. And the ability to give thanks for the blessings and people we have around us every day.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.    ~Colossians 3:15