We've been having some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets lately! We enjoyed this one as a family since sunrise is so late this time of year. But it's officially winter now, and I am grateful for the winter solstice though because less than eight hours of light per day starts to get to me! So now each day we're getting more minutes of light, and I'm happy about that.
Saturday, December 30
Tuesday, December 26
My Christmas didn't turn out like I had hoped. We had a relaxing morning (with the exception of a messy mishap with the coffee pot and a freak accident with a bathroom candle). I tried to just enjoy being with my family, and for the most part I was successful. But I couldn't fully relax since I hadn't gotten all the cleaning done that I wanted to before Christmas. My hubby doesn't get it, I don't think, but I just can't fully relax and enjoy things when my house isn't clean...especially on special days when I like it to be spotless.
We have started having prime rib for Christmas dinner for several years now. They almost always have it on special this time of year, and since we rarely have extended family joining us, we can buy a small roast relatively inexpensively. I like it because not only is it a treat, but it's so incredibly easy and fuss-free that I can just pop it in the oven along with some potatoes to bake and leave them alone for a few hours.
However, when I went to put the roast in the oven Chrismas Day, apparently it had been packaged poorly and it was going bad from the bottom up (which is why I hadn't noticed anything wrong). I decided to go back to Safeway and see if they were open perchance and could replace it. They weren't. We live in a small town and nothing except Rite-Aid was open. So we had frozen pizza for Christmas dinner! Oh well.
I was disappointed, but as I was driving to and from Safeway I was reflecting on Christmas and our Savior. I am so grateful that Christmas is about Him and God's gift to the world instead of about presents and special dinners, etc. My dinner and other plans for Christmas were lost...but I'm not. I am bought and paid for! I am redeemed (along with my grumpy attitude), and one day I will live in a kingdom free from sin and death (and rotting meat). I am extraordinarily grateful for Christ and His gift of salvation. I am so grateful too that I have a healthy and beautiful family to celebrate with!
Monday, December 25
Saturday, December 23
For ten years now we've dug the box out of our Christmas things, opened it, looked at each little stocking, given each other sad smiles and a hug, and then closed it back up and placed the box on our tree. But this year as I was holding the box in my hand, my four-year-old son asked, "What's in that box?"
The question didn't surprise me or catch me off guard exactly, but I hadn't anticipated having this conversation during our tree trimming celebration. My husband sat down next to me, and we pulled our two precious children close to us as we told them about the box. They had more questions, some of which we had answers for and some we didn't. Then they were satisfied and we went back to decorating this year's Christmas tree.
What a joy the last four Christmases have been! Sometimes I am overcome by the simplest things that remind me how very blessed I am to be a Mommy. As I watched my children excitedly running back and forth between the box of ornaments and the tree, my heart skipped a beat and my eyes filled with tears. It was one of those moments I had dreamed about all those long years when I was aching for children. The joy and fulfillment (and, yes, challenges) they bring don't erase the pain and sadness of the years we collected the stockings, but it gives our joy depth and richness and a perspective I am grateful for.
Though I should have known better, I assumed the kids would forget about the box until next year. But it had an impact, and they are still thinking about it. Abby has been talking about her brothers and sisters in heaven and how she can't wait to give them all a hug. And as I was pushing our grocery cart to the van this week, Ryan looked up and me and said, "Mommy, will you tell me about the box of stockings again?" Yes, Ryan, I would be happy to.
Friday, December 22
It's there every year, inconspicuously nestled into the branches of our Christmas tree. It began the year we found out we were pregnant for the first time. We were thrilled, scared, and dreamy like most first-time parents-to-be. We discovered the news at the beginning of December, and that year for Christmas we were given some things for our baby including a large plastic baby bottle bank filled with goodies and wrapped with a ribbon and a tiny stocking. It was a joyous Christmas despite the horrible morning sickness.
Then February brought heartbreaking news and our hopes and dreams came crashing down around us. We weren't going to hold and cuddle this baby afterall, we would never find out if it was a boy or a girl, we wouldn't be a Mommy or Daddy that year or perhaps ever, and we wouldn't be hanging a third stocking up beside ours next Christmas. We mourned instead, and we would mourn again three more times that year.
The next Christmas had an altogether different feel to it. As we opened up our Christmas boxes half-heartedly, we found the tiny stocking from the year before carefully packed away. I ran my hand over the red felt and remembered the joy of the year before. Suddenly I was surprised to feel something inside. Now intrigued, I looked inside and pulled out a small ziplock bag that had $100 bill and a Post-it note that read "For Baby Garner, to put in the bottle bank when it is empty. Love from Gramie and Granpa."
Though we didn't have the heart to hang up the tiny stocking, that Christmas we bought three more tiny stockings and put all four into a box. In subsequent years we sadly added more until our box now holds 11 tiny stockings, a small rememberance of precious lives dearly loved and wanted.
Thursday, December 21
My African Violet has been blooming for eight straight months, but it looks like it's down to one last bloom. I have been enjoying the flowers so much, especially since it didn't bloom for almost four years! It's the only houseplant that I have ever managed to keep alive for more than a year or so. Hopefully this spring it will bloom again!
Wednesday, December 20
Things didn't turn out exactly as planned this year. I had some things I wanted to do this Christmas, but sickness and other distractions kept me from doing everything I planned. But as I was going over my mental list the other day, I started making another list. I'm so grateful for the things I have and for the simple joys of Christmas:
The baby in a manger who went to the cross for me!
We have heat and electricity!
I have a hubby who would rather be home with us than anywhere else!
No wait in line at our small town post office.
I have two beautiful and healthy (mostly) children!
The smell of gingerbread, evergreen, and cinnamon filling the house.
I love crawling into flannel sheets each evening.
For the first time in my life, I have a house with a garage which means no scraping ice off the van windows each morning!
Tuesday, December 19
"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison wih them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body."
I often say a metal "puh-leeze" when I hear Americans talk about being persecuted for their faith. Though I am not ignorant of the fact that discrimination against Christians is increasing rapidly in our country, there are very few incidents of actual persecution. While I'm certainly not advocating handing over our rights as Americans, neither am I all that outraged by the secular forces-that-be removing the word Christmas from advertising or a nativity scene from a public area. It makes me sad that they choose to reject and revile my Savior and what He has to offer them, but can we really expect the world to act any differently?
It is possible (probable?) that one day Americans will indeed be invading our churches and trying to force us to reform or recant our beliefs, perhaps even to the point of death. In the meantime, let's pray for our country and, more importantly, let's not forget our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who are truly putting liberty, life and limb on the line to follow Jesus. They need our prayers!
Megan Basham offers a little perspective as well.
Saturday, December 16
There are a handful of columnists that I make a point of reading each week, and Burt Prelutsky is one of them. He used to write a humor column for the LA Times, and his current columns often end up pretty funny too.
This week's column in Townhall is a recycled column from Christmas past and it's not particularly funny, but I loved it and thought I'd share it with you. Burt is a Jew, but he gives a great tribute to Christians in this article and I appreciated his sentiments.
Edited to add: This week's column by Burt is a follow-up to last week's and all the responses he received.
Friday, December 15
I loved this post from Ann at Holy Experience.
I am not a naturally early riser, and my children are very early risers. I try to get up earlier than they do so I can spend some time with the Lord before my day begins. I don't do well at concentrating deeply or focusing intently on anything once the kids are up and so I tend to want to be alone when I'm having my "quiet time" with the Lord, but I read this post a couple months ago and what a fantastic model this would be for my kids. I am a long way from making this scene happen in our home regularly, but it has given me something to think about.
Friday, December 8
I am a big Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. I grew up reading her books, and I learned so much from them. So when my mom recently gave me a collection of books about her life, I was thrilled. In one of them there is a recipe for gingerbread which Laura was famous for later in her life. I knew I wanted to try it, and when we set up our Christmas tree this afternoon, I was in the mood to do some baking. Her recipe was a bit cryptic for me, but I managed to whip up a batch that was very yummy. I know this sounds corny, but it gave me pleasure to enjoy this small part of her life across the years.
1 cup brown sugar blended with
1/2 cup lard or other shortening.
1 cup molasses mixed well with this.
2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water
(Be sure cup is full of water after foam is run off into cake mixture).
Mix all well.
To 3 cups of flour have added one teaspoon each of the following spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves; and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sift all into cake mixture and mix well. Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs. The mixture should be quite thin.
Bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes.
Raisins and, or, candied fruit may be added and a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.
Note: I just made the plain gingerbread and cooked it at 350 degrees since I have no idea what a "moderate" oven is. At this temperature it took an additional 20 minutes to finish baking. So perhaps moderate is closer to 375 degrees?
Thursday, December 7
I am usually up before sunrise, but this morning I slept late (it was wonderful!). When I finally got out of bed and went to open the living room curtains, the view I saw just about took my breath away. The sunrise was glorious! The entire sky was lit up like it was on fire...only pink. By the time I went to get Eddie and my camera, it had faded somewhat. But it was a wonderful postcard from the Lord this morning while it lasted.