I am in Awe of how my Heavenly Father is continuously taking that which is unlovely, broken or discarded in and around me and creates something of great beauty and value. How He is able to take the difficulties and even the tragedies of life and use them to perfect and refine us into someone that brings Him Glory...to bring Beauty from the Ashes.
The day seemed to be like any other...there was a school outing to attend, a bit of last minute shopping...trying to finalize Christmas plans, running children to their outings....yet I felt "Off".
I noticed it when I didn't have the patience for the nattering and bickering that was taking place after school. Then when there was delayed obedience over requests to help set the table, I was harsh..fair, I think...just no extra grace, (some kiddies have been pushing the limits lately).
Even still, I could feel the frustration within.
Tonight, as I was winding down for the night, some other things from the day...and even recent weeks came back to my memory. A news report that disgusted me, yet hit close to the heart, a lonely family member...(who intentionally or not, left me feeling guilty), others who have chosen to remain separated....
Things that began to flood my memory bank with the "other" Christmas memories.
I am sure many of us have them, the ones we'd rather forget. Maybe a family blow up, maybe some great disappointment, maybe an absent family member....maybe worse, maybe one that was present, but abusive.
As I began to process my "off day", I began to understand some things.
First of all, why I felt the way I did today...not depressed or angry, just not really me either.
I also began to realize that although I make daily choices to focus on the good in my life presently and to choose consciously to remember all that was wonderful and amazing about Christmases past...I have been selective in my memories. It's not that the "others" don't come to mind, it's that I choose not to give place to the enemy, by allowing myself to spend any time on them.
I choose to be thankful for all of the good, I choose to make better memories for my own children.
I choose to cherish friends and family...and the good in each one.
I choose to learn from other' mistakes (and my own), not to repeat them.
Yet, somehow, in the midst of the cherishing of pleasant memories....there is an unwelcome intrusion...the "unselected" memories.
I know that there are many who find Christmas extremely difficult for the same reasons...the unwanted memories. Many who struggle, dislike, or even become depressed or suicidal for these very reasons.
Yet, even as I process my own feelings, and quite honestly, struggle to push aside the intruding memories...I make a choice, again, for this night and this Christmas, to set my eyes on HIM, and to line my focus up with the following scripture:
"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things"
So forgive me blogger friends, if I come across a little on the "Pollyanna" side of Christmas in most of my posts...that too is a reflection of my choices, my "selective memories".
My "whatsoever things are lovely memories".
However Christmas makes you feel this year, I pray a blessing of peace and true JOY on each one of you. May this truly be a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!
Jianna has been somewhat undecided about what she would really like for Christmas this year....she has come up with a few last minute requests that have sent me scurrying. At one point I had told her that we might not be able to find what she was requesting because it was popular and so last minute.
Friday eve. she came to me with yet another request... "Mom, I know something I would really like and I think you can find it still. A CD with 'Mary Did you know' on it".
I didn't even know she knew of that song, it turns out that a band had come to her PUBLIC school and performed it. Then she heard it on Daddy's computer, and informed me that "Mary Did You Know is my favorite Christmas song Mommy"....
I found this video for Jianna, and she now goes around the house singing her favorite Christmas Song....Once again, a child has caused me to refocus on the truth and the heart of Christmas.
One of my early Christmas memories, is from 30 or more years ago. We were living in Middle Sackville, (outside Halifax), I can't remember for sure if it was our church or the community center that organized this event; but we went and made all kinds of wonderful Christmas Ornaments. I remember making a number of these cute little angels, (center angel); they still hang on my tree at Christmas.
So, as I was browsing this Christmas, I found this kit that made 2 similar angels...
I thought it would be so much fun to make these with the girls...they were NOT fun. They were way harder to make, and the girls could do little more than cut pieces and hold glued parts together. I will say, after I went out and purchased a new glue gun, things were smoother. They are very pretty, but I will see if I can still find the materials that we used when I was a child. Otherwise, we have learned that some memories are not easily duplicated!
Now, for all you little dollar stretchers out there...
These very lovely, (I think), and very yummy treats were all made from 1 package of 3 frozen Cinnamon loaves. For you local girls, I picked them up last week for $2.99 at Taste of Country. Michael LOVES Cinnamon rolls, actually one of the few sweets he enjoys. I figured, for a quick treat on the weekend, I would thaw them out and cut them into cinnamon rolls.
Sat. morning, I took my thawed loaves out of the fridge; but instead of simple cinnamon rolls, I raided my pantry and used my imagination to come up with three wonderful treats. With a few leftover cherries and pecans from earlier baking, I made the Swedish Tea Ring. This is traditionally something my mom made (from scratch) for Christmas morning, it is frozen now for Christmas morning.
With, some orange flavored Craisins from my pantry and some cinnamon and sugar, I made the Cranberry cobble-stone loaf (sliced the loaf into rolls, and cut each into 4 pieces, tossed them in cinnamon and sugar, and piled them in my loaf pan...sprinkling craisins at the 1/2 way point). Also frozen...for a Christmas tea...yet to be announced.
The final loaf, I made into traditional sticky buns with maple glaze...they were devoured by three little people who came home to warm cinnamon smells after a cold morning of delivering papers.
So, at $1.00 a recipe...plus a few left over ingredients...and only about 15- 20 min of prep time, I'd say these were my bargain recipes for the season!
I should have taken them all out of the oven about 5 min. sooner...but I am still pretty impressed.
My Nativity...actually, ONE of my nativities. ( Mark has requested that I put the wise men in another room of the house, because TECHNICALLY they were still a long ways off when Jesus was in the manger...I have not yet appeased him).
I Love this particular one, it is quite large and I bought it a few years back with birthday money from my dad. There is a mom story here...(I know I tell a lot of Mom stories at Christmas, but she was Christmas in so many ways...everything to do with Christmas was big and bright and colorful and abundant at mom's house. I said, after mom died, if she wasn't SOOOO bright, SOOOO welcoming and didn't do everything to the greatest of her abilities....she wouldn't have left such a large hole ).
When we were kids, mom made 2 large nativities similar to this one...only there were more pieces. One was for her sister, and one for her home. Over the years, we kids would each stake a claim on mom's nativity when she passed
Anyway, when mom was sick that last Christmas, she told me she was giving me the Nativity; but she was already leaving me her huge winter town and many of the other meaningful Christmas decorations...(I think she knew that I loved it all the way she loved it).
My brother at the time was not serving God, but his daughter had always wanted a Nativity and I knew that it would mean a lot to him, so I told mom that I desperately wanted the Nativity, but that I thought she should give it to Scott...which she did.
So, a number of years later, I remember shopping at Cosco, with very limited resources, but I had Birthday money from my dad that I hadn't spent yet. I saw this nativity displayed from another aisle, and thought, "if I have enough for money for that Nativity, I am buying it"...
when I got to the display, it was exactly the amount my dad had given me....
you can't imagine my pure joy!
At my house, we have many representations of Christmas
and all of it's forms, but front and center always as the main focus is Jesus. My nativities take the prominent places in my home, so that they cannot be forgotten in the fun and hustle and bustle. I have started keeping one of my smaller ones on the shelf behind my kitchen sink, so it is my focus even in the kitchen when I am scurrying about.
A few years ago, my neighbor's little girl was visiting Jianna as we were decorating, and repeatedly afterwards. She asked me questions about the nativity and especially baby Jesus, which I was happy to answer. One day she said, "Jenny, we don't have a baby Jesus at our house, will you buy me a baby Jesus"...Ohhhhh my heart strings....
I told her absolutely, I would buy her a baby Jesus.
It took almost a year to find a suitable nativity that this little girl could handle and arrange to her heart's delight...(but did not look like a cartoon, or too solemn and serious).
Before she moved away, I found one and told her mom the story and was able to give the little girl her promised Jesus.
I pray for them often that through the years He will become more than a cute Christmas ornament.
I know that in both of these homes, the Nativity as a symbol of Jesus is also a seed to add to many others that are in their hearts. Seeds that have been planted by many over the years and to which more will be added...that the truth behind Christmas will one day become their reality as well.
Mark and I have always prayed the blessing and favor of God over our kids. We have seen the fruit of that in things like getting a teacher who is a perfect match for their personality making friends quickly in a new school etc.
Some times His favor is so immediate and so great that it still amazes me.
We had spoken to our eldest this week about getting another job. There are so many fun things to be involved in both in high school and youth group, not to mention just having fun with friends.
We don't begrudge any of it, and want to bless our kids...ABUNDANTLY, but there are 4 of them and sometimes it seems we are writing cheques constantly for one.
Anyway, we told Jonathan that he needed to contribute towards some of these extras.
He understood and was in agreement, so we decided that by the weekend we would help him get his resume out.
That night, Mark and I were on a coffee/tea date; while we were out, Jonathan got a call from a parent of 2 of the girls' friends. He works for Parks and Rec. for the city. Jon had never applied there, but at a BBQ in the Spring, Mark had told this gentleman to let us know if anything ever opened up.
Well, he was to be hiring the next day for the three arenas in town, was Jon interested?
Jonathan was taken a little by surprise, but the end result is that he has his first 2-8 hr shifts this weekend...AND...he is making $2.40/hr OVER minimum wage!!!
It has really shown all of us yet again, how God cares for his kids and that he really loves to bless them/us "exceedingly abundantly above all that they would ask or think"!!!
Just like us as earthly parents...He just has way more to work with!
Today I had an unexpected yet very poignant lesson in the true meaning of Christmas. Actually, there were many lessons for me in this situation. The first being to listen to that still small voice speaking to my spirit in the midst of everyday life.
I was at the school today helping with the literacy program, as I was leaving, I checked my phone to see if hubby had called to have me pick up lunch...he usually does on Tuesdays. He hadn't and I was about to call him...then decided to just go right home.
As I waited at the stop sign, I had a choice to go left or right in order to go home...at the last minute, I decided to go right. As I drove down Cascade, I was almost at my road, when I watched an elderly lady slip and fall in her drive way. I slowed and watched as I passed and she looked like she was getting up. There was a young man watching from across the street, and I thought he might go to her. I stopped as I realized she was very slow to get up, and the young man was not moving. I eventually got turned around and stopped to offer my assistance. This sweet 78 year old darling was wearing only a sweater as her outer layer, and rubber sandals on her socked feet. She was not dressed for the weather at all!.
Thankfully, she was not physically injured and had landed on her knees not her back, hip etc.
As I helped her to the door of the home we were at, I got three stories as to who's home this was. We knocked and rang and could not rouse anyone at either door. I was at a loss as to where I could take this woman, she obviously could not be out walking in the clothes and shoes she was wearing...I was also beginning to realize that this dear lady was at the very least confused.
I helped her to my warm van while I tried to figure out where she lived. where she was headed and where she had come from. I knew I needed to get her help, but didn't even know from whom.
I called 911, they must have wondered if I needed the ambulance since I couldn't even give them my cell phone #!!! It is very new...a month...or so; ) and I am HORRIBLE with phone numbers.
As 'Ruth' and I waited for the ambulance, she was rather panicked about needing help, figuring out where everyone was at, and that her mother and child were waiting at the mall for her....(we found out later, as I'd suspected, her mother is deceased). She was SOOOO worried about keeping me from something even after repeated assurances that I had nothing pressing.
I showed her pictures of Jianna that I had just picked up at the school, trying to get her to relax...I was sure she would jump from the van at any moment. I laughed with her about my own forgetfulness at times, and tried to help her to put aside her worries about the ambulance...it made her feel silly that she might need that kind of help...I assured her she deserved help as much as anyone.
It turns out Ruth had Alzheimer's, and was at her own home, but her sweet husband must have been asleep, because he didn't realize that she'd left the house until the ambulance arrived.
I drove away, after reassuring her that the attendants just wanted to warm her up and make sure she was OK. My emotions took over then... How terrified her husband seemed to see all that had transpired without his knowledge. How confused this dear lady was trying to remember even the time of year that it was...I thought of a dear couple from our church who have been living this nightmare....my heart cracked.
As I prayed for all of them, I wondered how this sweet lady could think anything was more important than stopping and making sure she was safe...and my heart broke.
This Christmas...and every day, I want to leave time in my daily hustle and bustle to hear the promptings of my teacher Holy Spirit, and to be available to those in need.
I was truly honored to have the privilege of maybe bringing a bit of comfort to Ruth in this trying time.
Loving because He first loved me...isn't that what Christmas is all about?
I have to share this beautiful new Christmas treasure with you.
I am forever ordering new books through the scholastic book orders. There are a few reasons that I like to find books this way. I am always trying to encourage a love for literacy in my children, so I am always looking for new books to spark or fuel their
interest. I also like to support the teachers' being able to fill their class rooms with great books.
The difficulty comes in that our home library is already overflowing with wonderful books stemming all the way back to my own childhood.
Christmas book orders are always a treasure hunt for me as they tend to carry a selection of lovely books that uphold the true meaning of Christ in Christmas. In perusing this year's selection, I was disappointed to find that the books being offered that fed my desire to keep Jesus the central theme of Christmas, were already lining our shelves.
I was struck by one book though. It promised to be filled with new traditions and some of the other parts of Christmas that I love. It was a little pricey I thought, at $19.99.
I have to say, I was not at all disappointed. This book is GORGEOUS!!! It's like truly walking through a real gingerbread land. The photos themselves are beautiful, but there are little booklets enclosed at the corners of most pages. These booklets contain traditional recipes, explanations of the meaning behind some traditions and even crafts.
The cover of this book is almost like a real gingerbread cookie, complete with 3 dimensional glass "candies" and raised "icing".
In short, this book is a new Piers Christmas treasure that I expect will be enjoyed for many years to come.
If any of you still have access to Christmas book orders and have access to this book, it is a truly amazing value, and would make a lovely gift or addition to your own Christmas traditions.