Posted in Christmas, photography, travel

Tuesday Tour: traveling via the tree

Christmas 2022 is now past. Yet the Christmas tree that glimmers and shimmers in our living room will remain there until New Years Day. It’s tradition in our family, and we do like our traditions.

Another tradition Papa and I initiated many years ago was purchasing at least one Christmas ornament on our traveling trips from one of the places we visited.  If you inspected our tree, you’d notice several different ornaments from a wide variety of places.

Since travel is not on our calendar right now, I thought I’d share a few of those on today’s Tuesday Tour.

I think we began acquiring travel Christmas ornaments when we lived in the Pacific Northwest and traveled all over Oregon, Washington, and California.

So, a gingerbread house ornament from the Bavarian-style mountain town of Leavenworth and a Christmas star from Seattle, both from Washington state, adorn our evergreen tree.

Just a couple exist from our journeys across Oregon, where we lived for six years: a cute reindeer peeking over the state of Oregon we purchased at a Redmond reindeer farm and a decorated seashell found in a Pacific Ocean coastal town.

And even though we also traveled down the coast of California, the only ornament from those trips is a musical cable car from San Francisco that plays – you guessed it – I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

We purchased many of our travel ornaments in more recent years. Those like a brass wreath with a welcome pineapple from Williamsburg, Virginia; another brass representation of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina; and yet another similar one of Silent Night Chapel in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

Trips to the beach are also remembered by a Cape Hatteras, North Carolina sand dollar hand painted with the famous lighthouse there upon it and one featuring the lighthouse at Cape May, New Jersey. Speaking of lighthouses, ornaments from Nubble Light in Maine and Presque Isle Light in Erie, Pennsylvania also decorate our tree.

Representing historical places Papa and I visited in recent years are ornaments from Plymouth, Massachusetts; a minute man from Boston; a drum from Fort McHenry, Maryland; and a pewter one from the famous Civil War battle site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Baubles from Vermont, Michigan (including Mackinac Island), New York City, a West Virginia blown glass one, and a Hershey’s Chocolate World in Hershey, Pennsylvania also adorn our tree.

There’s even a hint of international flavor even though we haven’t traveled to other parts of the world yet.

Look closely and you will notice olivewood ornaments from Israel. Our oldest daughter brought back special decorations from a Honduras mission trip and London, England on a grander excursion she experienced.  

And another special ornament we received as a gift from our Australian friends is a Christmas tree that fits together with two parts, crafted from aromatic Huon Pine wood (it smells just like a campfire) from trees grown only in the wet, temperate rainforest of Tasmania.  

All these decorations for our tree are special to us, and this Christmas I received two more that most of my Tuesday Tour readers will understand why I was tickled to receive them – a lighthouse and a covered bridge.

But not just any run-of-the-mill ornaments, these are Ginger Cottages. A few years ago, I discovered this style of three-dimensional wooden ornaments at a Christmas shop.

They were originally designed and created by American artisan Glenn Crider, but in recent years the product was acquired by the Old World Christmas company.  

Mr. Crider still designs all the ornaments, and they continue to be American made (a plus in my book) and hand assembled.  Ginger Cottages can be found in retailers all over the nation now.

The intricately carved wooden structures create a village if you collect them all (and there are many, click here to see them) so you can either hang them on your Christmas tree and insert a light into the small hole on the ornament bottom, or you can arrange them on a shelf, table, or under your tree. 

When lit up, you notice little surprises inside each ornament like the Amish horse and buggy in the covered bridge.

We already possessed three of these special ornaments – the wedding chapel, ginger clock tower, and Santa’s workshop. It’s enjoyable to peek inside these to see what’s there. Pictured below are Santa’s workshop and clock tower lit and unlit.

So, I was particularly pleased to receive the special-to-me Ginger Cottage ornaments that represent several posts I’ve shared on my Tuesday Tours.

If you need me, I won’t be traveling yet. Instead I’ll be sitting in my living room still enjoying our illuminated Christmas tree at least until January 1, 2023.

“Christmas is a box of tree ornaments that have become part of the family.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

© 2022

Posted in Christmas

Blessing For You

On this Christmas Day, I’m sending all my readers warm wishes for a blessed Christmas Day. May the love Christ has for us fill your hearts with joy and peace.

Merry Christmas

from Mama’s Empty Nest!

“That is my prayer for you this Christmas—that you would experience the fullness of Christ . . . that you would be amazed that Christ can be so real to you.” ~ John Piper

© 2022

Posted in Christmas, Life

Words for Wednesday: catch a falling star

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

On cold, clear winter evenings in December, I often gaze at the sky and those stars shining brightly in the dark nightscape.

And I wonder what might it have been like to see THE STAR? You know, the star that shined over that little place where the newborn Christ-child lay. That star that appeared so brightly causing wisemen from a far distance to travel where it led them.

I make my own journeys during the Christmas season when my mind takes me back into memories long past. I feel blessed and grateful for so many of those pleasant and joyful reminisces.

Today I’m taking my readers back to a blog post I wrote about another star in December 2014. I hope you enjoy it, even if my long-time readers have read it before.

Christmas songs from the radio filled the silence as we drove along enveloped in darkness only broken by headlights of sparse oncoming traffic on the four-lane highway and the occasional red brake lights of vehicles far ahead of us.

On our way back home after accomplishing some Christmas shopping at a nearby mall, we were tired and ready to call it a night.  Traveling along a blank stretch of highway from the more populated area to our rural place, there wasn’t much to see. 

Cloud cover even obscured the brightness of the moon and its supporting cast of shining stars.  Suddenly, ahead of us a burst of brilliance filled the dark firmament then left a trail of luminescence downward toward the ground.

We both exclaimed, “Did you see THAT?” at the same time. 

A falling star.  A shooting star. 

A radiant spot of brightness in an otherwise dull and mundane night. Despite the song emanating from the radio – “just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling too” – my mind immediately launched into an old Perry Como song from the 1950’s.

“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away.”

Back once more in our own reveries, I mulled over what I had just witnessed.  Catch a falling star.  Catch a falling star.  Put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.  The lyrics to that song kept playing in my mind drowning out the secular Christmas songs still coming from the car radio.

And I thought of that one star.  That star unlike any other.  The one that suddenly appeared in the sky over 2000 years ago to show that something remarkable had occurred. 

Something that would totally change our world.  The birth of a baby boy named Jesus.  That boy who became Savior, God in the flesh of mankind:   “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:14-15 (NIV)

I pondered how fitting that I should see this shooting star to remind me what Christmas is really about, celebrating the birth of my Savior – the Messiah, Emmanuel, the long-awaited One.  The very One we sing about during this Advent season in “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

One shooting star blazing across the night sky reminded me of all of this. 

Yes, I’ll catch a falling star and put it in my pocket to keep. 

And then every time I get caught up in the Christmas madness of shopping for gifts and decorating, of Christmas dinner menus and seasonal songs about everything but Jesus, of tinsel and mistletoe, of sleigh bells and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I’ll pull that star out of my pocket to remind me of the true meaning of Christmas and I won’t let it fade away.

“Christmas in Bethlehem. The ancient dream: a cold, clear night made brilliant by a glorious star, the smell of incense, shepherds and wise men falling to their knees in adoration of the sweet baby, the incarnation of perfect love.” ~Lucinda Franks

© 2022

Posted in Christmas, travel

Tuesday Tour: to the lights

It’s been said that Christmas is the season of light. How true that is.

One of the fun Christmas traditions I relished as a child is something Papa and I continue – driving around neighborhoods to view Christmas lights.

Just last week when our oldest grandchild spent the night with us, we took her on a spin through several neighborhoods to exclaim over all the seasonal illuminations we encountered.

Fond memories float through my mind of my own childhood when my dad would patiently drive around our town and surrounding areas for an entire evening as Mom and I oohed and aahed over lights shimmering on folks’ homes.

“Christmas lights instantly make me feel eight years old again.” ~ unknown

Papa and I spent many evenings doing the same for our children when they were young and even when they were teenagers.

In remembering those Christmas memories, especially those that didn’t cost anything but a bit of gasoline or a brisk walk on a winter’s cold night, today’s Tuesday Tour will highlight some of the special Christmas light displays our family has visited in the past. Unfortunately, I don’t have photographs from all those magical times.

The first one that comes to my mind is the unduplicated sight one sees when visiting Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri during the Christmas season.

The Country Club Plaza is noted as the oldest outdoor shopping center in the United States and all the buildings located there are unique in their Spanish-styled architecture.

Beginning on Thanksgiving night and running through the middle of January, every dome, tower, and window of the Plaza is illuminated with jewel-colored lights.

All 15 blocks of this shopping district light up during the Thanksgiving Eve Plaza Lighting Ceremony, an over 90-years-old Kansas City tradition since the first one in 1930. Christmas lights at the Plaza all began when one store hung a single strand of Christmas lights over its entrance in 1925.

People come from all around to view the sight and some even acquire hotel accommodations on the Plaza for Thanksgiving evening just to witness the lights burst into brilliant color during the light up ceremony.

We, however, were satisfied just to enjoy this amazing sight by driving through the Plaza with our young children every Christmas season during our residence in the suburbs of Kansas City.

But one year even though it was awfully cold, we braved the frigid temperatures to take Papa’s parents, who flew from Pennsylvania to Kansas City to spend Christmas with us, to the Plaza for a walk about the amazing lights. They had never seen anything like it!

Unfortunately, I do not have photos of this spectacular Christmas light display, but you can check out this video (note it’s from two years ago during the you know what) which provides a nice tour of the lights. It truly is a sight to behold.

Another display that delighted our family when we lived in the Kansas City area during the 1980’s was “Christmas Card Lane” in Olathe, Kansas.

Every home in a particular subdivision not only decorated the outside of their houses with a plethora of Christmas lights but also displayed giant greeting cards illuminated by spotlights in their yards.

The Christmas “cards,” fashioned wooden stand-up structures, proclaimed Christmas greetings along with each home’s family name, just like a card you receive in the mail would. And again I’m sorry I have no photographs, but you can see some photos on this website.

At one point almost 200 homes participated in the special display every Christmas season for 25 years. But alas, I don’t know if this tradition has continued. From what I gathered online, the tradition has waned significantly so perhaps it no longer exists.

After our move from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest in the early 1990’s, we found Peacock Lane in Portland, Oregon. I still recall how excited our young children were as we drove down this little city street to view amazing Christmas light displays on every single house in this quaint neighborhood.

A quick search on the internet assured me that this tradition continues to this day. From 6-11 p.m. every night, motorists can drive through Peacock Lane to enhance their Christmas spirit and it appears it’s just as popular as it was when we visited there all those years ago.

Pedestrian-only nights are set aside for those who would rather meander through the neighborhood by foot taking in the festive atmosphere than stay in a car for a lengthy time driving through.  

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of Peacock Lane either,  but if you are a Facebook user, check out the Peacock Lane Facebook page and click on photos to view some of the decorated homes.

We found yet another fun Christmas light display when we drove right on the Portland International Raceway to view “Winter Wonderland Portland” during those same years.

I can’t remember if it was free or we paid an admission fee, but either way, it was a sight worth seeing, especially for our children. Click here for a two-minute drive through.

Close to 25 years ago, our family moved across the United States back to Papa’s and my home state, and even though our three children quickly (it seemed) grew up, we still enjoyed piling in the car and driving around to spy Christmas lights.

Often we did so on Christmas Eve prior to our church’s 11 p.m. Candlelight Service. And we never were disappointed with the variety of decorated houses we viewed. After our kids left the nest and began their adult lives, Papa and I continued our little tradition occasionally.

But when our first grandchild came along, it became time to reinstate this family tradition every Christmas season. So in addition to viewing neighborhood lights, we’ve also paid an admission fee to drive  through a nearby county fairground and enjoy “Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland.”

This display also can be seen in seven different locations in other states. And in the spirit of Christmas giving, the company that owns Shadrack’s also donates to charitable non-profit organizations in each area where the displays are located.

I do have photographs I’ve snapped of this technologically amazing Christmas light display.

The neat thing about this exhibition is that while riding in your own vehicle, you tune into a station on your car radio that plays Christmas music perfectly timed with the display of lights – hundreds of thousands of lights are programmed to the music.

It is pretty amazing. But what impressed us most was the true meaning – the reason for the season – prominently displayed as an illuminated manger with the words “He is Born” lighting up as Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus from the composer’s great work Messiah plays on your car radio.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” ~ Isaiah 9:6

If that doesn’t get one ready to celebrate Christmas, I don’t know what will.

“Jesus is the brightest Christmas light. Jesus is the only light that will never burn out or be unplugged.” ~ unknown

© 2022

Posted in Christmas, family, photography

Tuesday Tour: to the trees

It’s a well-known Christmas song, often sung or listened to while decorating for the season.

You probably know or at least recognize the tune if you celebrate Christmas. ♪♫ “O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree…” ♫♪

The Christmas tree is the center of merriment in many homes this time of year. And while some drag haul out an artificial tree to adorn with a plethora of glitzy ornaments, others prefer a real tree for that authentic pine aroma to permeate the house.

Evergreen trees can be found and purchased on tree lots just about everywhere.

But if you want your family to experience a real treat, you bundle everyone up in warm coats, hats, gloves, and scarves and head out to a Christmas tree farm near you to choose your own to either be chopped down by yourselves or sawed off by seasonal farm hands.

When I was growing up, my family always had a real Christmas tree. Sometimes Dad would bring one home on Christmas Eve and we would decorate it then.

Other times, we’d get it earlier and once my mother and I chopped one down ourselves when a family friend invited us to do so on his mostly wooded property. That was an experience I won’t soon forget as we struggled for quite some time to saw that pretty pine down. And refused help from a hunter who happened by.

Papa and I continued the tradition of a real tree, and we have many fond memories of Christmas tree farms excursions with our children to find “the one” in every place we lived.

A big surprise we found living in the Pacific Northwest for the first time was to realize our Christmas tree stand was not nearly large or strong enough to hold those massive trunked trees grown there, so a new stand became a necessity.

But once all our children grew up and moved out to commence their adult lives, this Mama (who had grown weary of the messy pine needles of real trees) declared we would buy a fake tree.

But to get that pine tree holiday fix, we often accompany our daughter and oldest grandchild to a Christmas tree farm to acquire theirs.

Another tradition we continue is to begin holiday decorating Thanksgiving weekend. Since our entire family gathered for that holiday here with us, we planned two Christmas tree outings – one to a tree farm and another to a Festival of Trees in our hometown riverfront park.

Those are the subjects of my Tuesday Tour today.

The tree farm was huge and provided beautiful evergreens of several varieties of firs, pines, and spruces. We traveled by tractor-drawn wagon out to the expanse of the farm – acres (and hillsides) of live Christmas trees.

Once the perfect tree was discovered, a friendly young fellow chopped it down, tagged it, and loaded it along with others on a different wagon. We enjoyed our wagon ride back to the farm’s main area where there were activities, photo opportunities, concessions, and a Christmas shop to visit.

While we checked those out, our daughter’s tree was being shaken (apparently plenty of praying mantis insects make nests in the trees) and bailed for transport. All we had to do was carry it to the car and strap it down on the roof for the journey home. Easy peasy, and lots of fun too.

One of the nice aspects of this particular tree farm is that it participates in the Trees for Troops program, (initiated in 2005 by the National Christmas Tree Growers Association), donating and distributing Christmas trees to military bases both here in America and overseas.

On a certain day, visitors to the farm can purchase and donate a Christmas tree for Trees for Troops. In the last seven years, the farm we visited has donated 2000 trees, a worthwhile project.

Our other family excursion was just a walk in the park. But not just any walk, we meandered our way through our hometown’s riverfront park to view 133 decorated Christmas trees, provided by a family-owned business in town, and lining the park’s sidewalks.

Local companies, organizations, and individuals “adopted” a pine tree and adorned them with special or meaningful ornamentation. Some were decorated in honor of a loved one who had passed.

The lyrics to that song about Christmas trees rang through my mind as we viewed all those symbols of the season.

“O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree
Such pleasure do you bring me
For every year this Christmas tree
Brings to us such joy and glee.”

Our three young grandchildren delighted in that outdoor walk on a crisp, cold day along the river while eyeing the differently decorated Christmas trees.

Such a unique and enjoyable experience it proved to be, not just for the children but for us adults as well. And this Mama/Nana brought her camera along to capture the sights.

I chose a few of my favorite Festival of Trees photos for you to view in the slide show below. Hope you enjoy them!

And finally, I love this picture I caught of one of our sweet grandchildren in her fancy red coat checking out the cardinal in this Christmas tree.

“The best way to see Christmas is through the eyes of a child.” ~ unknown

© 2022

Posted in Christmas, Christmas memories

Tuesday’s Tales of Christmas Past, Part 3

(While this empty nest Mama and Papa prepare for an all in the family Christmas with our grown kids and little grandchildren and focus on the real meaning of that celebration, I’m sharing a few of my blog posts from years ago in these Tuesday’s Tales of Christmas Past. This one from December 2018 was titled “Jesus Won’t Stay in the Corner.” I hope it blesses you today. )

On one of our travels this past year, we ventured into some Christmas stores. You know, those shops with nothing but Christmas décor for sale year round.

I love Christmas, I truly do. And I do enjoy decorating the Christmas pine in a festive way with special ornaments, many from places we’ve lived or traveled to and collected over our 40+ years of marriage. 

In addition, every year since our first child’s birth, I’ve purchased some kind of special Christmas ornament for each of our children. When they were small, my intention was to accumulate these ornaments, adding to them each year, so that when they grew up and left this nest called home, they would have a box of ornaments to put on their very own Christmas trees.

As they got old enough, I would let them choose their own ornament. So each of our three left home for adulthood with a box of Christmas memories.

And even though it’s been many years now since the last fledgling flew out of our nest, I still look far and wide for a special ornaments to gift them and have added our two granddaughters to the Christmas ornament search list as well.

So, if there’s a Christmas shop handy, I’m in it, gleaning over the shelves, searching for just the right bauble.

One shop we visited on a trip this past summer looked promising. Entering the store, Christmas music was playing and the place was loaded with joyous Noel items everywhere.

Honestly, there seemed to be every kind of ornament imaginable – any theme, you name it, they had it. Some of the ornaments I felt were questionable to pass as Christmas tree decorations, but you know, to each his own.

Papa and I would just shake our heads at many of them and move on to the next shelf. We looked high, we looked low. And we finally did find a couple of ornaments to purchase – one for our oldest daughter and her hubby and one for a friend of mine.

But in all of our searching and perusing of the items in this Christmas shop, something was noticeably missing.

Where was Jesus – you know, the reason for the season? The Christ. The Savior of the world that Christmas is named for.

In the very back room of this store with many rooms, in the very far left corner of that room on a shelf down low below your eye level, a couple of small nativity sets occupied a tiny space.

That was all.  I had to bend over and practically touch my shoulder to my ear to even see them sitting here in that forlorn little corner.

No other decorations proclaiming the meaning of Christmas could be found in that shop. None. Nothing about Jesus other than that tiny little baby in the two or three crèches. Just that and absolutely nothing more.

So what did Jesus do to deserve being put in the corner, out of the way, where no one would see Him?

He had the audacity to fulfill ancient prophecy as the Messiah – the long-awaited Savior.   He exhibited absolute obedience to His Father by allowing himself to be taken to slaughter – this Lamb of God – hung on a cross in place of every sinner, dying for the love of His life – us.

He had the purest, unadulterated form of love for mankind than anyone else who has ever walked on this place called earth has ever possessed. Because He surrendered Himself for me. For you. For every single soul who chooses to believe in Him and accept His free and unconditional gift of grace – salvation.

Some day He won’t be put in the corner – forgotten and dusty. Because someday He’s coming back. And all of those Christmas ornaments that seem to gleam and glitter and catch our attention will be worthless.

They will not matter.

Because every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He IS the reason for the season.

“The great challenge left to us is to cut through all the glitz and glam of the season that has grown increasingly secular and commercial, and be reminded of the beauty of the One who is Christmas.” -Bill Crowder


Posted in Christmas, Life

Tuesday’s Tales of Christmas Past, Part 2

(Join me once again on this Tuesday’s Tales as I revisit blog posts from Mama’s Empty Nest a few years ago while I try to catch up on preparing for our family Christmas celebration. All of our grown kids and sweet grandchildren are coming home for the holiday this year. This old post is from December 2014. I hope you find some encouragement from it.)

It happened while I was trimming the tree.

I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it. 

Each one brings back memories.  There are the ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years.  There are the ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes.  There are the antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home.  And there are the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.

I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task.  The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle. 

And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss. 

I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor.  Okay, no problem.  But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”

Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor.  Oh, not this one!  This one was irreplaceable. 

It was a clear glass ball with the face of Jesus inside.  This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree.  This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.

Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought.  Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?

But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament. 

Broken.  Jesus.  He was broken.   

And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us.  He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you.  Broken for me.  Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.

Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind.  That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body.  And to do that to remember Him.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~  1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV  

Just last week, I read a friend’s Facebook status which was a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”  

Yes!  That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.

So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior.  I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us. 

But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken. 

I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.  

And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”  ~ Vance Havner


Posted in Christmas, family, Life

Words for Wednesday: no cookies

Time is of the essence and being waylaid with some kind of sinus infection has sent me backwards in Christmas preparation as all of our offspring and grandchildren are singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas….you can count on me.”

Right now I’m counting on Papa who is a tremendous helper in getting the halls decked inside and out. But we haven’t had time to make any cookies yet and that is an old tradition to have scads and scads of Christmas cookies on hand in this household. But I don’t think it would be a good idea to be sneezing into the flour, do you?

For now, I’ll just enjoy the photo above of the cookies I baked during other Christmas seasons while I look over the items I want to check off my list.

Suddenly though, I am reminded that my Christmas to-do list should not be my focus.

To quote Dr, Seuss in How the Grinch Stole Christmas “Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.

As a believer in a Savior named Jesus Christ, I know Christmas DOES mean not just a little bit more but a WHOLE lot more. So while being a tad under the weather has slowed me down considerably, I’ve discovered that is something for which to be thankful.

Slowing down makes me simplify everything. And in doing so, I can focus on the real and true meaning of why we, as a family here in the empty nest, celebrate Christmas.

Because in a lowly stable over two thousand years ago, a tiny babe was born and His name would be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Emmanuel, God With Us. And He would change the world.

I need to change my perspective in how I’m approaching this blessed holiday and I don’t need cookies to remember the greatest gift God ever gave us.

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


Posted in Christmas, Christmas memories

Tuesday’s Tales of Christmas Past

(Mama’s been down for the count – 10 days of weathering a sinus infection – and time is short until all of the chickens come home to roost. In other words, all of our grown kids and little grandchildren will arrive to celebrate Christmas here in the empty nest. And Mama and Papa are behind in getting ready for the celebration.

So on Tuesdays for the next few weeks until Christmas is over, I’m revisiting some of my earlier blog posts in hopes you may like reading them again or maybe for the first time. This one is from December 2010. I hope you enjoy it!)

It’s hard not to be crafty at Christmas. 

Oh, I don’t mean being crafty in the sense of the definition of the word: sly, shrewd, cunning or deceptive,  although I suppose you could call many people crafty at Christmas time.

There’s the shrewd way some people act at the mall when they slide into a parking spot first while you were patiently waiting for the previous car to vacate the space. 

Some people are downright cunning as they push and shove their way through crowds to get the very last [insert newest, hottest selling toy here]. 

And often times, we are very deceptive as we hide the Christmas presents or even the Christmas cookies so they won’t all be eaten before Christmas arrives!

No, I don’t mean that kind of crafty.  I’m thinking more about those who are like Martha Stewart.  Whoa, wait a minute, she did go to jail once….perhaps she was cunning or deceptive, huh?  Well, let’s concentrate on her ability to take an ordinary branch off her juniper tree and turn it into the most amazing shimmery addition to a boring centerpiece that you ever have seen.  That’s what I mean by crafty.

Some people can just take scraps of this, leftovers of that, add some ribbon and glitzy stuff and voila!  A lovely Christmas ornament for your pine tree.  Or there are those people who actually make Christmas gifts for family and friends.  I admire their creativity and tenacity! And then there are the items that were lovingly handmade at school or in Sunday School class by your children when they were little.  Crafts and Christmas just seem to go together.

I was thinking about that the other day when I finally finished decorating our Christmas tree. (Yep, I succumbed.  I just couldn’t leave a bare-naked tree in my living room!)  There are a lot of crafty ornaments residing in my Christmas décor boxes. 

There’s the round painted one oldest daughter made in second grade, if I remember correctly.  It hung on the mayor’s Christmas tree at City Hall in the town we lived in then.  Middle daughter made candy canes out of red and white pony beads and pipe cleaners one year with her fellow Girl Scouts.  Son constructed a baby Jesus in half a walnut shell in Sunday School way back when.

Several handmade ornaments that I purchased at craft shows or holiday bazaars also congregate in my boxes,  some of those I even managed to make myself.  Others were gifts bestowed upon me like the clear glass ball with a sketch of Jesus inside from my friend Laura (of course, I still have it hanging on my tree) or the half egg shell with a Christmas scene displayed inside of it, a gift from my mother many years ago.

Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at crafting other decorations as well, including a nutcracker wreath, a garland of felt stars with homemade buttons fashioned out of clay and baked in the oven, and who knows what else lurking in those boxes.  When I unpack these items, it brings back a lot of delightful memories – some of my mother, some of my children as they were growing up, and some of friends, now far away.

When I was a little girl, my mother belonged to a “Home Extension Group.”  A group of ladies met monthly at each other’s homes for a demonstration of home arts and a lovely lunch.  Most of these women were my mom’s age or older and I vividly remember being the only youngster at those meetings until I trotted off to school.  Even then, I would be excited to jump off the school bus and enter my home to see the ladies from home extension there and taste the yummy leftover dessert.

These women would gather to craft or learn something new in the fine art of homemaking.  Sometimes a representative from the state home extension office would visit and give a demonstration, perhaps on home canning or sewing.  I still remember the year they made large white candles shaped like snowballs for Christmas.  Whatever they were making or eating, this group of friends always seemed to enjoy their time together.

Several years ago when my family lived in the Pacific Northwest, I told this story of Mom’s home extension group to some of my friends and we decided to resurrect the concept.   A few weeks before Christmas, we met at a friend’s home, spent the morning crafting together and sipping hot coffee or tea,  then shared a tasty and delicious lunch.

That’s where my nutcracker wreath was designed.  We all convened at the craft store to choose scads of items we would hot glue to our wreaths of artificial greenery.  Festive ribbons, little nutcrackers, Christmasy birds, glittering balls, shiny strings of beads, twigs of fake holly…it looked like the Ghost of Christmas Present had thrown up all over the table!

But oh, the fun we had!  We chatted and laughed as we crafted, enjoying each other’s company so much, giving advice about the placement of tinsel tidbits, which was beneficial because the more savvy decorators among us could give direction to those of us who were craft-deficient.  Having relished our day together, we decided to continue the idea each week as we launched another Christmas craft.  For the first time, I truly understood why my mother belonged to her “home extension group” for all those many years.

It wasn’t about the finished product, although that was nice. The real joy came from time well-spent with dear friends, savoring one another’s company with laughter and merriment yet sharing burdens and sorrows as well.  It was about gathering for a lovingly home-cooked meal together as neighbors who had more in common than just the neighborhood where they lived.

Yes, it was a simpler time when my mother and those sweet ladies, whose faces I can still recall even though every one of them has left this world, convened every month for camaraderie and cake.  But those simple times can be recaptured – my friends and I did it that one special time at Christmas.  We just have to want to live a simpler life, to take time to visit those we treasure, and make memorable moments happen.

It’s Christmas.  It’s time to slow down.  Spend time with your closest friends and family.  And while you’re at it, though you may not be “crafty,” make something special together – even if it’s just lovely memories. ©2010


Posted in Christmas, photography

From my home to yours

As I prepare to celebrate this holy season of Christmas, I reflect on the many gifts I’ve been given. Included in that long list of blessings are you, my readers. Thank you for spending time with me as you read my blog posts.

My wish for you is simple. May you be blessed as much as you have blessed me with your comments, your likes, and simply just reading my words.

I wish you all joy, peace, hope, and most of all, love. It’s what we all need right now.

“Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.” ~ George F. McDougall

© 2020