Christmas & New Years Blessings

GE DIGITAL CAMERAAll my best laid plans to do a weekly advent devotion for Christmas were dashed when I came down with a sinus infection and eventually a bad case of the flu.

After starting antibiotics for my sinus infection I was elated when I felt normal and energetic. That lasted for 3 days. When wham – I was hit – bulls-eye, with the flu. So for the past two weeks minus a few days I have been sick. But as I say, “tis the season to be jolly, to be merry and to be sick”!

Alas, we must all take the good with the bad. Yes, I have been sick for nearly 2 weeks and in bed for 4 days, that is the bad, but the good is I have a great family doctor, a job that I can take adequate time off to recuperate, family and friends that care for me and brought me not chicken soup but Christmas cookies – now those are friends! My daughter was even in the kitchen doing most of the Christmas meal preparation while I rested and enjoyed the sounds of Christmas music playing or watching the Hallmark Christmas movies.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAI even had time to put together a puzzle – anyone recognize it?  Yep, I admit it I am a “A Christmas Story” watcher.  We watch it every year on Christmas Eve after church and then again Christmas morning as we open our presents. 

So, at this time I would like to wish all of you and your families, a joyous and wonder-filled Christmas season of the birth of our Savior and a healthy and God inspired New Year.

 

 

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Christmas Cookies Anyone?

386741_2668163541909_324005759_nThis is the first Christmas I will not be baking cookies. When my mother was ill my sister and I took over some of the baking and that is when I found my love of baking Christmas cookies.

The year my mother had her first heart attack dad bought the Tastykake Christmas cookies and they eventually became a part of our Christmas cookie tradition growing up, the box they came in right next to moms delicious cookies. My mothers favorite to bake were butter cut out cookies and peanut butter. We were no Martha Stewart or I guess in my day it was the Galloping Gourmet when it came to decorating. But we had fun. We never used icing, instead mom used a egg yolk mixture and then we topped it off with an assortment of sprinkles and candies. There were more types of cookies she would bake and we would always help – eating the broken ones or the ones that were burnt around the edges.

404543_2760139881260_50935956_nAs I got a home of my own I added Butter Drop Ins, Angel Pillows and Santa’s Whiskers to my cookie collection. I would store cookies for weeks until Christmas using all the proven techniques to keep them fresh.

As the children grew they ate them as fast as I could bake them. We would also give away containers full of cookies. One year I took them out to the ambulance company that came and helped me after I passed out. Then there were the years I shipped them to my  husband and son when they were deployed. Over the years my kitchen became a bakery filling my home with aroma of fresh baked cookies.

When our son moved out of the house and life got busy with jobs and other commitments I only baked the families favorites and started to buy German cookies and Scottish shortbread that are now easily available. What is Christmas without the traditional Lebkucken, Christmas Stollen, and Scottish Shortbread that melts in your mouth?

9693_4837674018315_186367325_nOur daughter loves to bake as much as I do, but we are both finding out bakery cookies are just as good! So now we go to Wegmans and stock up on German Lebkucken, buy our favorite cookie – Oreos with the red stuffing and choose a few Christmas cookies at our favorite bakery. We are also blessed with my sister who still loves to bake and will bring over our mothers Butter Cut Out Cookies and friends who will not have me go without cookies.

Although I have never met a cookie I did not like I am at that age where I have to watch what I eat. And with my biggest cookie fan no longer here to enjoy the delicacies I bake, I find it is time to lay aside my baking sheet and wooden spoon – for now. I am sure once grandchildren bless my home I will once again fill my home with the aroma of cookies baking.

405158_3610376136635_1392016750_nSo now what do I do since I am not baking? Glad you asked…now my life is filled with craft and sewing projects. Instead of a messy kitchen table I have a messy craft table. The aroma of baking cookies has been replaced by the aroma of my Scentsy Warmer that fills my home with Christmas Joy.

What is your favorite thing to do for Christmas, is it baking, cooking, or crafts?

It Is Beginning To Look Like Christmas

Picture unknown artists
Picture unknown artist

It is now the day after Thanksgiving here in America so it is now the official start of the Christmas season and to celebrate it I thought it fitting to post to the song by Bing Cosby,

It Is Beginning To Look Like Christmas

So rejoice everyone – the Christmas season has begun! Whatever you do for the Christmas season celebrate every moment from baking dozens of cookies to shopping for or making that perfect gift.  Don’t let the naysayers get you down, it is time to celebrate the holiday of our Saviors birth. 

What is the first thing you do to kick off this joyous holiday?  For us it has always been decorating the house and putting the tree up.  I worked retail and waited tables for many years, so depending on when I worked we would either put the tree up on Thanksgiving or the first weekend I had off which was usually the first day of advent.  And of coarse you already know, by now I have been listening to Christmas  music!

Let me be the first to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The Day After Thanksgiving

I dedicate this song to everyone who waits until Thanksgiving to play Christmas music, decorate and start their shopping!

You can thank my son for giving me the CD – now I will think of all of you with smiles as I listen to this song and secretly sing to you “It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas”!!

You know I love all of you! 😀 

“The Day After Thanksgiving” by Brandon Heath
 
There’s still plenty of leaves
Golden on the trees
Hoodies, blue jeans and football
Bonfires and school nights
Scarecrows and hayrides
It’s fall everywhere except the mall

I don’t want to hear about Santa Claus coming
No silver bells or a dozen drummers drumming
I don’t want to see an inflatable nothing
Till the day after Thanksgiving
(And not a day early)

Don’t plug in those electric candles
Or dangle those stockings from the living room
Those tangled up lights are more than I can handle
Till the day after Thanksgiving

Then oh let it snow
Go and tell everyone you know
That Christmas is here
Every day between now and new year

Don’t deck the halls with the tinsel or the holly
You can make me grumpy but you can’t make me jolly
Elves don’t even make curly haired dollies
Till the day after Thanksgiving

Then oh let it snow
Christmas card, everyone you know
Then pour on the cheer
Every day between now and new year

I want the cookies and the mistletoe kissing
Angel on top of a tall tree glisten
Wrap it all up in a pretty red ribbon
The day after Thanksgiving

(You can put antlers on your car for all I care)
As long as its the day after Thanksgiving

Here Comes Santa Claus

CharlieBrownChristmasUpdate.JPG-675x550It it is time to start thinking “Christmas”.  Actually I think of Christmas all year-long as I reflect the birth of Jesus.  Then as I start sing Hark the Angels, Joy to the World and other favorite Christmas classics, soon I am singing, I Want A Hippopotamus, Nestor the Christmas Donkey, Deck the Halls, I’ll Be Home For Christmas and of course Here Comes Santa Claus sung by my two favorite singers, Doris Day and Gene Autry.   I could type a list of all my favorite Christmas songs.  You name it I love it!

I know everyone is going to comment that it is not Thanksgiving yet and you are right!  Years ago I thought how sad that we get to only listen to Christmas songs for 30 days out of the year.  So  I decided to started listening to Christmas songs the first day of school to celebrate the children going back and having the house to myself!

Then the movement of the stores to have Christmas in July came and I was hooked in bringing out the Christmas songs in July. 

This year I did start a bit later than usual only recently switching my regular CD’s over to Christmas.  But I am proud to say my daughter is following in my footsteps and is also listening to Christmas music. 

And you realize that with the Christmas music comes the Christmas movies. 

So call me crazy and you would be right because I am crazy for Christmas all year-long!

Enjoy your first Christmas song of the season…now you can get back to thinking about Thanksgiving as I get back to listening Christmas songs on Pandora.

But remember Christmas is only 88 days 7 hours and 37 minutes away (as I write this).

 

 

 

 

Rediscovering Joy

Sunrise over Halifax
Sunrise over Halifax
This Christmas was difficult.  The first Christmas without Tom. My faith has been able to get me through all the other “firsts” of living without him.  Until this Christmas season. We have always enjoyed all the festivities and family gatherings of Christmas. Tom would light up the house with strings of color lights and we would tease him that our house was looking like the Griswold home in the Christmas Vacation movie!  But it was the Advent season that brought us to a deeper relationship with Jesus.  The songs of His birth and the special Advent devotionals led us to the true meaning of Christmas and the birth of a baby that is our Savior and Lord, making Christmas a very special day for us.
 
This year I knew we would still celebrate our Lords birth even knowing it would be difficult. Spending time with my children made my Christmas complete and we knew Tom was with us.  We said good-bye to some old traditions and started a few new ones. Without Tom to share this season, there was no more joy.  Or so I thought.
 
A few days before Christmas I read this verse in my devotional, “This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” {Nehemiah 8:10}  When I read that my first thought was, “Where can I find that joy again?”
 
God answered on December 22 when our church held our Christmas Cantata.  The children’s choir sang and their voices sang loudly and joyously.  Singing loudly and joyously, all of them reflected God’s light.  That glimmer of light started to shine again for me.  When they were finished one child clapped and gave a happy shout, “yea!”.  The grief in my heart was soon replaced with the joy that came from the voices of children singing.  
 
God was not finished with me yet.  Our church holds two Christmas Eve services, the Family Service at 5:00 pm which offers child care and an early night for excited children and the 7:30 pm Candlelight Service for the rest of us.  Normally we do not see children at the 7:30 service but this year we were blessed with a few little ones.  As the service began, one child starting fussing, not to be out done, the second child joined in.  Then they started to babble – you know the sounds, the cute baby sounds that make everyone smile!  Sadly I cannot remember in detail what our pastor told us but from what I remember he told us that through these children we were blessed to experience what the shepherds saw all those years ago – a little baby crying. Those children reminded me that Jesus did come as a baby; He cried, He giggled and He cooed.  And like the Shepherds we were given an amazing gift on Christmas Eve, a chance to experience Jesus as a baby. Throughout the service these little ones made their presence known and with each little cry or giggle they  reflected God’s light that was beginning to shine brighter and brighter in my life once again.  
 
January 5 was Epiphany Sunday, our first hymn was “We Three Kings” and one young child sang joyously and loudly – his voice ringing out above the choir.  It was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard – a child singing, making a joyful noise unto our Lord.
 
Joy had returned through the blessed children.
 
Each day I am rediscovering joy in my life.  Over Christmas is it was the children in our church.  A few days ago it was the crazy antics of our dogs.  Last night is was our bible study leaders meeting.  It was the sound of rain falling on my windows on a Saturday morning.  I found it today with new shoots on a spring plant that I have been taken care of all winter. Each day I discover joy seeing Tom in my children and knowing through them he will live on.  
 
The psalmist wrote, “This is the day The Lord has made.  We will be glad and rejoice in it.” {Psalm 118:24}  
 
If you are also going through a difficult time and the darkness has stolen your joy – Make the choice to rediscover the joy that is in each day and be blessed with all that is good, in Jesus Christ.

Childhood Christmas Memories

Christmas Fort Bragg
I am the cute on in the middle! We are all wearing our new Christmas pj’s.

 This Christmas was full of memories. The memory of my first Christmas with Tom.  The Christmas’s when the children were small.  I can still see my son at age 6 months as he sat under the tree.  His eyes were as big as saucers and he giggled as the lights blinked. Our daughter had her first Christmas with palm trees while we were stationed in Florida.  The doll Tom purchased for her was bigger than she was!

But my first memory of Christmas was when I was 5 yrs old. Dad was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC   the first place I also remember living.  It is here I got my first bike although I think it was for my birthday and not Christmas.  Christmas was reserved for baby dolls for my sister and me, and a Texaco or Hess truck for my brother.  Along with games,puzzles, coloring books and crayons, doll houses and stuffed animals.  Dad loved to get us the musical ones from Radio Shack as we got older.  Although I loved my dolls I always remember playing with my brothers Lincoln Logs and playing with his GI Joe, my Barbie did not have a Ken doll, instead I took my brothers GI Joe (back when they were made the same size as Barbie) and married him off to my Barbie.  My Barbie was an Army wife! 

As we got older the gifts changed, coloring books for paint sets and dolls for perfume, make up and girly things.  But one thing never changed our Christmas pj’s.  That was the gift we could always count on.  The one thing we always received until well in adulthood were pajamas.  Picture me newly married and for our first Christmas we went to my mother’s house and presented our gifts and lo and behold I had my Christmas pj’s. After mom passed away I think getting my Christmas pj’s was one of the things  I missed the most from that first Christmas without her.   And as traditions go my children also received pj’s every Christmas until my son got too old cool for them and my daughter  prefers to choose her own.   Now I await grandchildren so I can continue the tradition of buying Christmas pj’s from them.

Now as I am older in years and mature in my faith there is another gift that I can always count on and not just at Christmas.  It is the gift of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Savior.  All those years ago a little baby was born that changed the world.  Today His gift of Salvation is a gift we can always count on.

May you carry the gift of Jesus in your heart all year-long.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Christmas star
I do not know who created this picture. I believe I saw it on facebook with a quote.

It has been a busy week here – as I am sure with all of you.  My mind is fluttering to one thought to another and I can’t seem to stay focused

This is when I turn to music to regain my focus and what beautiful music we have this time of the year to keep us focused on Jesus and the hope and promises He brings.

So to keep the Christmas feeling flowing during this busy time of the year I would like to share my favorite Christmas Carol sung by Amy Grant.

I have many favorites and usually start to listen to my Christmas CD’s in July – you know Christmas in July!! And then come the autumn I listen to them every day.  Hark the Herald Angels Sing is the song that brings the joy of Jesus’ birth into the deepest part of my soul. 

May you and your family be blessed during this Christmas season of our Saviors Birth and in each single day of your lives.

What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

Christmas Reflections

nativity-w-blue-backgroundLast year I started a new tradition as I celebrated the Advent season.  On the first day of Advent I started a journal listing all the things I have learned through my Advent devotional.  They were things that I already knew but needed reminded of and some things that God put upon my heart which shaped my life for the upcoming year.  And there were a few gentle words that spoke directly to my soul – just between God and myself.

So this year I continued with the tradition and through my Advent devotional God has indeed blessed me with His wisdom again.  My Christmas wish for you is to take at least one and lay it upon your heart to reinforce the hope found in the baby Jesus and to bless your life in the New Year:

*   As I have lost my way this past year and allowed the busyness of life get in the way of my relationship with Christ, He gently reminded me I needed to go back to the beginning so that I will be able to move forward.  I needed to return to the manger on my knees – to reflect once again on Jesus, on His life and ministry and to prepare my heart to welcome His return.

*   Developing a faithful prayer practice.  “Prayer is the path that unites our hearts with God’s heart.” {unknown}

*   Thanking Jesus for allowing me to try to do things myself and making the wrong the choices. Praising Him for picking me up when I fall and gently guiding me in the way I should go.

*   “Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach” Deuteronomy 30:11  No challenge is too big when Jesus is beside me.

*   Finding Jesus in my everyday tasks.

*  Enjoy the quiet moments.

*  Keeping the joy of the Christ Child in my heart all year long.

*  Letting go of those things that are keeping me separated from God and from having a relationship with Jesus, my Lord.

As I go forward into the New Year Jesus is preparing me to make some changes; I am going to stop procrastinating.  I have started to organize my life by setting up blocks of time to handle the big tasks and not allowing distractions to overwhelm me.  I am reminded again to remain focused on where Jesus is leading me and to what needs done not only in my life but in serving others.

These 24 days of the Christmas season has brought me closer to God through the gentle words of His Son, Jesus.  It is His birth we celebrate but it was I who received the gift of His love, His forgiveness and His promise of eternal life. May you all experience all the richness of these gifts.

I have also learned from Jesus, that when He went off on His own, to reflect, pray, and rest, He was preparing Himself for the task set before Him.  That is what I will be doing, I am taking the next week off to spend time with God and His Son, Jesus and to be with  my family.  I will be resting and preparing for those changes in my life and for the task God will set before me. 

I look forward to another year of writing, reading your blogs and meeting new friends. 

So until next year ~ 😀

Merry Christmas and may your New Years be full of God’s blessings, lots of laughter, joy and love.

The Parakeet

parakeetAs I read everyone’s posts about Christmas memories I am reminded of my own memories.  The year my sister and I both received exactly the same doll house. The Christmas I received my first ring from my parents.  I still have it.  It is tarnished and the stone out of date, but it is now an antique being over 40 yrs old! 

I think one of the best Christmas gifts I have received came from my husband.  We had just moved back to Pennsylvania and getting settled back into a semi civilian life.  We now owned our home and so we enjoyed filling our home with pets; we had fish, a rabbit, eventually a hamster and of course our dogs.  I had always spoke of the parakeet my cousin had and how much I enjoyed it when I was younger and how eventually my mother would purchase a parakeet for me.  I always talked of the parakeet that I named Bubbi after my cousins parakeet and how much I enjoyed hearing him sing. 

You know how our memories are, they are selective, so I neglected to describe the mess and the work involved with caring for a bird or the fact that less than a year we gave the poor thing away.

So my husband being a sweet sensitive guy (which he won’t admit) decided to buy me a parakeet for Christmas.  We both love birds and he thought this would be a perfect gift.  And it was, until we realized Bubbi Jr did not sing.  We tried everything.  All it ever did was eat and poop and poop and poop.  Lets not get into the shells from the bird seed, they were everywhere.  I never mentioned to my DH (dear husband) that I was not really enjoying the little guy. It was not Bubbi’s  fault, I was working full-time, taking care of the house in addition to our pets and our two little ones that kept us running.  So the day came when little Bubbi died.  I hate to admit it but I was relieved, and being such a good wife, I “grieved” with my husband over Bubbi. 

Then Christmas came and my sweet sensitive husband knowing how much I “missed” Bubbi bought me another one, much to my dismay.  Again I was “happy” with my gift.  And to his credit he bought me one that sang but I think it was an attack signal.  That bird would attack the hands that fed it.  I could not change the papers without that little innocent looking bird coming for me and forget about feeding, he mistook my fingers for food.  I am sure that bird was part of  a meat-eating variety of parakeet.  So after a few weeks of being attacked I told DH he needs to care for Bubbi. 

Bubbi used the sweet sound of his singing to get back at us.  The dogs barked he would sing, the phone rang ~ he would sing.  We would talk and he would sing.  Then Jurassic Park came out on video.  One of my sons favorite movies.  The dinosaurs would roar and the little bird would go nuts. 

Then the day came and he also died.  DH started talking about getting another one. I had to confess.  I had to tell him as much as I appreciated him buying me the two birds, I pleaded with him no more birds.  So to his credit he did not buy me a Parakeet for Christmas, instead he bought me a ceramic Blue Jay – to go with the Cardinal he bought me years earlier because he knows they are my two favorite birds.

The reason that Parakeet is one of my favorite Christmas gifts because they were given in love.  DH may not be a romantic and a tough ole Sergeant but he shows his love for me in so many little ways, even buying me two parakeets to remind me of happier times from my childhood.

Another thoughtful present he bought me was an antique Army Ike Jacket that the soldiers wore in WWII,  searching on eBay until he found one with the Third Army patch on it, the unit my dad served in during WWII. I had mentioned a few times that I like those uniforms compared to the ones today.  My house is full of gifts he purchased for me over the years, each with a story and a memory attached. 

And so through the years I have learned to be careful telling my DH what I like because one day I may find a zebra or a giraffe under the Christmas tree! 

I wonder what is under the tree this year?  thinking-woman