Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Good. Better. Best.

So, I'm jumping on the "Best Of" bandwagon.  As all the talking heads, pundits, and social media royalty are making their lists of "best" movies, "best" moments in sports, "best" books, and "best" celebrity gaffes, I decided to craft my own little list.  I could post my two cents with regards to those previously-mentioned topics, adding to the noise; but, this is much more fun.

A (Partial) List of the Best Moments--2014 Edition

1.  Waking with a start, in the dawn's early light, realizing that I forgot to put out the trash for today's pick-up.  I race outside, hoping there's no neighbors in view, and put out the receptacle.  As I settle back into bed, I hear the roar of the garbage truck, coming down my street.  Sweet.

2.  Checking my mailbox (the real one--with the wooden post and flippy-flag that alerts your mail carrier to outgoing items) and receiving a hand-written, "just thinking of you" note, from a dear friend.

3. Hearing my favorite song on the radio.  It's fate.  It's destiny.  No iPod and Spotify playlist involved.

4.  The sound of the tea-kettle whistling.  

5.  Discovering fellow lovers of old musicals--"Singin' In The Rain", anyone?

6.  A spontaneous hug attack from "He-who-is-now-taller-than-I".  And, he's almost 13.

7.  Finding "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas".  On DVD.  For $5.

8.  Having a chocolate chip cookie craving and finding all the ingredients I need in the pantry and fridge.  No trip to the grocery needed.  It's that destiny thing again.

9.  An impromptu lunch date with my favorite Philosopher and our boys.

10.  Leaves on the ground--and leaves in the dining room table.

11.  My Ninja's delight in unusual digital clock times.  For example, 11:11 or 12:34.  Really.

12.  Twilight Woods and Dark Kiss.

13.  Making the 798th trip down the by-pass, en route from Tae Kwon Do, and viewing a spectacular sunset over the plowed cotton fields. 

14.  A beloved hymn in the line-up on our Sunday morning worship bulletin.

To quote Half-Pint yet again (Little House fans unite!), “I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all”, says she.

Life-long learning.  Here's to a 2015 filled with those lessons.  That's higher education.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Just A Thought

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.” 
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mary Had A Little Lamb

"Behold, the Lamb of God
Who takes away our sin,
Behold the Lamb of God
The life and light of men,
Behold the Lamb of God
Who died and rose again,
Behold the Lamb of God who comes
To take away our sin."
~Andrew Peterson,
Behold the Lamb of God 

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,and the life was the light of men. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
~John 1:1-5


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Astonishment--Christmas Eve

Let the Stable Still Astonish

Let the stable still astonish:

Straw-dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.

Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said: "Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens and earth
be born here, in this place."

Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms of our hearts
and says, "Yes, let the God
of Heaven and Earth
be born here ----
in this place.
~Leslie Leyland Fields

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reality Check

Gingerbread Cookies: Southern Living Edition

I am a romantic.  Especially during this season, I have these idyllic notions of how our home should be decorated, how my baking should taste...and smell...and look, and how my home-made “simple gifts” for dear friends (and our beloved neighborhood State Trooper), expertly tied with raffia and a Christmas plaid bow should look.  Last year, I refused to join the fracas of getting out Christmas cards before Christmas--GASP!  And thus, the “Joyful January” card was born.  If you really want to get sticky about it, there are twelve days of Christmas that begin on December 25--historical rationalization is a beautiful thing.  The ever-popular ditty that includes those five golden rings also supports my case. 

Joseph Bottum’s recent post, Joyful Surrender: A Rhapsody in Red (and Green) brought a grin to my flour-smudged face--and a “Yup, that’s just what I needed to hear”.  Not everything will be like Martha (Stewart, that is) was here to help.  I adore our simple but festive decorations, and myriads of sweet-smelling candles go a long way.  And, hand-made cards from our precious college kiddos.  Don’t get me wrong--I sometimes pine (Christmas pun) for the Spode Christmas ware--or just one more poinsettia placemat set--with matching napkins.  I thoroughly enjoy taking fireplace shots--I grew up in South Florida; so, I’m forgiven for that obsession.

As one of my favorite Christmas songs reminds listeners, it was not a silent night.  It was loud, it was wild, it was chaotic--it was real.  And, that is the ideal setting for what Bottum so beautifully calls “the impossibly boisterous fact that God has intruded in this world.”  We should “break out into song, if you can. Break out into sentimentality, if you can stand it. Break out into extravagance...and Christmas doodads and the branches breaking under the weight of their ornaments. Break out into charity and goodwill. But however you do it, just break out.

So, I will “break out” the popsicle stick-framed nativity crafts of yesteryear (2004-2009), I will “break out” the tried-and-true Snickerdoodle recipe and put aside that multi-adjective chocolate decadence that I pinned last night, and I will “break in” the LEGO Santa and Christmas tree, meticulously designed by my Ninja.  I will embrace the reality that has been so Graciously given to me.  It is a gift.  Unmerited. Priceless. Inexpressible. 

Gingerbread Cookies:  Tabulations Edition


Sunday, December 21, 2014

With Love--The Fourth Light of Advent

"Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen."
 ~Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Book of Common Prayer

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadows put to flight. 
Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel,
Shall come to thee, oh Israel.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday--Band Aid

1984.  "Do They Know It's Christmas?".  Band Aid.  Bob Geldof.  Live Aid. Duran Duran.  Bono.  Big hair.  Eyeliner.  And that was just the guys. 

My very own copy.  On 45.  And some paraphernalia from my Duranie days. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


On this day, nineteen years ago, my favorite Philosopher and I said, "I do".  December 16 is also a literary milestone.  It marks the birthday of a favorite authoress of mine--Jane Austen.  I should add that this momentous occasion took place 220 years prior to our delightful recessional stroll to the "Prince of Denmark's March".  Thus, to commemorate both anniversaries, I offer a quote or two of Austenian origin that are ever-so-fitting.

"Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another."

"I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.  My attachments are always excessively strong." 
~ Northanger Abbey

"I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation.  It was too long ago.  I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun..."  

~Pride & Prejudice

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beautiful Music

Martin Luther once said, "Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. "  

Particularly during these days of Advent, the sounds and strains of lovely orchestrations envelop us.  Whether we're grocery shopping at our favorite Kroger, standing in line at Bath & Body Works for their "best sale of the year", taxiing some member(s) of our family to the final game of the season, or preparing the sixth batch of snickerdoodles in our kitchen, the music follows us.  Admittedly, I get weary of hearing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" sung by some of the most random singers out there--Nat King Cole is rolling over in his grave.  However, it is the tinkling of the bells, the regal tones of the pipe organ, or the melodious strings bringing us music that invigorates our hearts--or just simply makes us smile.  The rich language of age-old carols reminds us of the meaning of this season of Anticipation.   

After a recent Christmas cantata, masterfully presented at our local church, my Ninja described choral music to me in this way. 

"This music is like an onion.  It has many layers (parts), it's sweet (he likes Vidalia), and it makes your eyes water (having observed his mama get teary-eyed during several pieces)".

It is important to note here that he is a lover of onions.  Thus, the comparison is a very high compliment.  

Lest you think I am getting too big for my yoga pants, I must give a proper nod to the crooners--and the standards that made them famous.  I will openly confess that hearing Bing Crosby sing "Silver Bells" makes me happy.  Throw in some Harry, Frank, Julie, and Ella on that playlist, and life is sweet.   And, having recently learned of the story behind "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", one of my Nana's favorite Christmas songs comes all the more to life.  

I think Martin Luther was onto something.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

With Joy--The Third Light of Advent

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
 ~Psalm 103: 1-5

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hump-Day Horticultural Hilarity: Percy the Puny Poinsettia

Elmo and Patsy were not just one-hit wonders, my friends.  Here is their endearing follow-up to that beloved Christmas standard, Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. 

"Percy, the puny poinsettia
Is hanging his bloom in dismay,
If they had just kept him wetta,
He'd be a houseplant today.
Folks liked the other plants betta
Now he's alone on the shelf.
Even a plant with no uncle or aunt
Shouldn't spend Christmas Day by himself."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

With Hope--The Second Light of Advent

“As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger

 O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. 
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things--Advent Edition

Advent.  Anticipation.  Traditions.  What are those things--be they memories, pictures, stories, or music--by which we mark this time of year?  Perhaps, it is a beloved recipe.  Or a cache of treasured ornaments.  Or a story that makes us smile, laugh or cry.  Maybe all at the same time.  It may not be girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes or snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes; but, here are a few of my favorite Advent things.  Just in case you wanted to know.

Every year, I re-read Jan Karon's Shepherds Abiding.  Even for those who may not know the Mitford story, this is a jewel.  The story centers around this seemingly down-trodden nativity set that arrives at the local Antique store.  Father Tim decides to take on the refurbishing of the set as a surprise gift for his lovely wife.  Tim’s labor of love sets in motion some of the best Mitford lore written yet.

Behold the Lamb of God, Andrew Peterson’s “true tall tale of the coming of Christ” is an amazing musical narrative of the prophetic arrival of the Messiah.  He takes us back to the Old Testament fathers and prophets, weaving a tale that brings us to the glory of the Savior incarnated.  Matthew’s Begats is a fun song--and great way to learn the genealogy of Christ.   My favorite song on the CD (and one of my favorite Christmas songs period) is Labor of Love

“It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground.
You could hear a woman cry in the alleyway that night,
On the streets of David’s town...”

A little boy loses his way in a Carolina snowstorm and finds himself warming up in the cabin of a wise mountain woman.  Their conversation takes them from the Creation to the Resurrection.  One Wintry Night, written by Ruth Bell Graham, and beautifully illustrated by Richard Jesse Watson, always finds itself in my Christmas basket--or on my nightstand.

This year, we are reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s God Is In The Manger for our family Advent devotionals.  Each day's reading includes a scripture passage, meditation, and a relevant excerpt from the writings of Bonhoeffer. Thus far, the reflections from Bonhoeffer himself have come from his prison letters, written during his captivity in a Nazi concentration camp.  Powerful. 

And, of course, the perfect hot cocoa recipe is a must.  Several years ago, having run out of the good ole’ Swiss Miss hot cocoa packets, I found this yummy recipe online.  My Ninja and “He-who-is-now-older-than-I” request it as soon as the temperature dips below 5o degrees which happened rather quickly this year. The secret is the dash of vanilla in the bottom of the mug.  Oops, I guess it’s not a secret anymore!

 Psst:  I'd love to hear from you--just so you know...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014