Saturday, December 31, 2011

Johnny Fever and Dill Pickle Chips

Breaks are for a bit of indulgence and taking part in the extraordinary. There are things I enjoy, but could never allow to be a regular part of my life because of their unhealthiness or lack of priority. They aren't "wrong" or irresponsible, but some are simply a treat for now and again. So, when they present themselves, I graciously accept the opportunity to ENJOY.

Things I did on Christmas break that I don't normally do:

-let kids sleep in (more quiet time)
-cleaned, sorted and rearranged stuff in the house
-listened to those daytime lady shows about fashion, makeup and exercise while I clean...they're funny and I like how they sound.
-went for spontaneous walks in the woods
-ate leftovers for meals and chips instead of popcorn
-visited friends in the middle of the day
-trips to town in the morning, when I'm not tired and rushed
-sat and stared at the tree lights with music and coffee
-made a display of gifts under the tree (but people wreck use their stuff)
-let our big stinky dog in the house more, to be with us.
-watched episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati in the middle of the afternoon.
-painted in the afternoon
-made a gingerbread nativity scene with the youngest kids

Notice, there is no mention of hockey nor afternoon naps. I guess the rinks are closed for the holidays and I haven't worked hard enough to require extra sleep. I can live with that. One more party to go, then the regular routine is reinstated. I like the regular, but a week or two of tossing the schedule and the "regular" is very good for the soul.

Besides the usual determination to keep fit and be rid of bad habits, I really don't have any New Year's goals or changes to implement...I like my life how it is. Whatever 2012 brings, whether triumph or disaster, I will attempt to "treat these two imposters just the same". My God goes before me, after me, and with me, making good of everything that happens.

May you and I have a very blessed and God honoring New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

It's 3:30 am. My eyes are faking sleep while my mind thinks it is time to get up. I guess my brain cannot see the huge red numbers on my bedside clock, reminding me of how tired I will be this afternoon. Change positions...bathroom break...a little more prayer...change positions...forget it...I'm getting up.

Thank goodness for books, internet, coffee and pretty tree lights in the dark. All quiet company for me in my involuntary earliness. I guess it's the season. The shopping lists and anticipation of events. I go over "important" things I might forget to buy or do, without even realizing I'm taking inventory. We forgeters do that. Fear of mistakes and blunders haunt me in the night. I'll dream of forgetting a homework assignment...but I'm not in school, or forgetting to take vital medication...but I'm not on any, forgetting my baby at the mall...but my babies are grown. Finally, forgetting to make sure I am fully dressed in a public place...but for those who know me...that's just funny. That one is a recurring nightmare of great humor once I realize it was just a dream.

So, what does it all mean Mr.Freud? Simply that I'm afraid of forgetting things and the consequences thereof. It does not have roots in my childhood, nor is it a manifestation of a former life as an elephant (they never forget). I just have this thing about being irresponsible. I'm sure it has something to do with the bad image it portrays, but also with not being able to let go and let God cover my blunders with His blanket of grace. If I make a mistake and someone is affected, then I am blamed! Oh my! I cannot be blamed! I cannot have a tarnished reputation, that would just make me...human. Fear of making mistakes, great or small, is completely irrational and pointless. Accepting and expecting personal blunders is a very healthy way of thinking. Not to "go on sinning so that God's grace may abound", but resting comfortably in the shadow of His protection.

What a relief it must have been on that first Christmas day. The protection and salvation of this fallen world had made itself known. With humility, patience and never ending sacrifice, Jesus started picking up our pieces. He kindly took the hand of the world and guided it through the mess it so naturally makes. Even when we were stubborn and self assured, He continues to shine the light for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear...all the way to the cross.

He did this so that we can rest. Rest from all the striving for perfection and acceptance. We can be free from fear of mistakes and consequences if we are willing to live in faith and obedience to Him. I am His, but I still lie awake at night sometimes, fretting about my performance in this life. He came to free me from that too. His kingdom has already come and I am in it. Right here in my little house, I have His fullness available to me.

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven."

I may not be able to fall asleep at my own command, but I can always rest...and that is what my body and soul needs. Sleep will finally offer itself, probably at about noon today, when lunch needs to be made, or when I'm driving to town with a van full of kids. Christmas is largely about being given the opportunity to rest in Christ. May we not miss the point and let ourselves stress and lose sleep over the celebration.

Take all of your medication, do a wardrobe check and count your children...then relax :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

The "Smell" of Christmas

There are some things about Christmas that have to be a certain way, and others that are negotiable. Jesus has to be the center, there must be cranberry pudding, daily festive music must be played and the tree must be real. My third son made mention to me the other day that there are certain "smells" that he loves and one of them is the smell of Christmas. He was referring to the tree. Not only the fresh, outdoorsy scent that real trees offer, but their unique shape gives authenticity and an earthy simplicity to the theme of the season. I am not an artificial tree snob, I can appreciate those too, I'm just stuck on the real thing. Another one of those things that claim "we always did it that way". A nurtured code imbedded in my psyche.

Part of the draw is the fetching of the tree as well. Every year we and some close friends venture out into the forest (my favorite place to be) and spy out our yearly centerpiece. The gals use their decorative expertise to make the choice, and the guys are drawn to the power tool that cuts it. Since we are only rationed one tree per family, there is need of other things to cut. They are quite pleased when we choose a tree buried deep in a thicket because that means that there will be brush to get through...something else to cut. Why PUSH the brush to the side when you have a power tool at your disposal?

After the trees have been carried home, the hot drinks are poured and everyone warmed. It's a great thing. I could stop there with the "fun" descriptions because next comes the decorating. I am not a tree decorator. If I could hire someone to do this job, I would. Fortunately, kids love it and therefore do it after the painful task of untangling and bulb changing of the lights is done. We have kids, so it's acceptable to have tree that looks like kids decorated it. I love a tree that is filled entire with white lights, but the kids like the colored colored it is. I love our kid trees, but I really appreciate being in the presence of the artful trees of women who have "grown up" kids. My mom is finally enjoying a "grown up" tree after years of tolerating our masterpieces. I LOVE her trees. They are skinny, glittery, classy and perfect. Someday I will have one of those grown-up trees, but for now, I'll let the kids enjoy their personalized tree and share their awe as they stare at it's beauty.

I love the unique shapes rather than the "perfect" cone trees:

Even if it looks like silly string was used to decorate it:

Skinny trees are "in" too...especially for those of us who don't have a lot of space to work with:

This Chubby Santa tree looks great...or maybe it's the room I love??

I just can't get into colored trees. This one looks like Miss Piggy got a hold of it:

This is awful. It does NOT look like a snow covered tree to me:

I even like the peaceful and simple twig trees. A modern/urban twist??

Lovely, elegant and close to perfection:

How could I not love a tradition that brings the outdoors IN?? Those fresh, beautiful, uniquely designed pieces of nature are always welcome in my living room...grown-up trees and kid-trees alike.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holly Dolly and Hooch

Reticular Activating System (RAS). This is one tidbit of knowledge that has never left my mind from Biology classes. No reason, just got stuck there in my depleting memory bank. It is the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating our sleep-wake transitions. I rarely have any trouble getting to sleep. Except on December 24th...when I have sugar plums, gift unveiling and culinary anticipation dancing in my curly head. I'm not sure I can blame my RAS for this one. Even if I am up to the wee hours, packing gift stockings, (sorry...if you are reading this and still a believer in the plump, red suited man...I let the reindeer out of the bag) I still take awhile to doze off.

It's a little better now than when I was a wee one. I have an emotionally stable, calm as a cucumber, "doesn't get too excited about much else than a Passion Flakie" grown up sleeping beside me. Way back when, I had 2 giggling, blonde headed bundles of excitement laying with me, trying to accept the necessity of slumber that precedes that magical day. One of whom, I truly think never ever got to sleep on that night.

The whole Christmas season was magical in our house. Bill Gaither Christmas music on the "Hi-Fi", our plastic and TOUCHABLE nativity set, the lighted tree set perfectly beside the brick fireplace, Grammy's starched snowflakes hanging in the window and always the scent of something amazing baking in Mom's blessed oven. Scotch cakes, nuts and bolts, Borden's Squares and Cranberry Pudding are the stars of the show...and HOOCH! Hooch is Mom's, non-alcoholic, amazing Christmas's purple, sweet/sour and just plain lovely. Secret recipe...sorry. My Mom's sweet smile, faint giggles and contented demeanor lit the room up more than any of the lights she strung. Perfectly complimenting her meek and mild presence was my energetic, party seeking, compulsive hugging dad. We waited anxiously, daily, for several different Fords to pull into our driveway just before supper. They were home...both literally and figuratively.

The evenings leading up the the special day were spent watching those yearly Christmas specials on TV, pretending to hand out pre-wrapped gifts from under the tree to church kids, watching Empty Stocking Fund choirs and painting wooden ornaments. We weren't overly involved in extra curricular activities and lived in the country, far from malls and parks, so much time was spent at home until we were older...which didn't bother me one bit. It was the most wonderful place on Earth to be.

Christmas eve was marked by lobster rolls, our special guest Nanny Hanson, candle-light church service and the opening of one present. Then the three gigglers went to bed...not to sleep...just to bed. When we were young, we were showered with the most unique, love labored gifts. My mom is extremely creative and gifted. One year, we awoke to 3 hand made, life-sized dolls sitting on the sofa. They were made to look just like each of the us, from eye and hair color right up to the amount of freckles each of us was cursed with. My daughter now sleeps with her "Holly Dolly", who is looking a bit more aged than I am, if I may say so myself :) Cable knit sweaters, a doll house by Dad (whose creativity seeps out every now and then) and umpteen dozen Barbie outfits, just to name a few, were more treasured than any expensive gadget ever was. The thoughtfulness, uniqueness and personalization of the gifts...not the amount of them... left a great impression on me.

I have sought to replicate this atmosphere in our home at Christmastime. With the exception of a slight burnt smell to the baked goods, the absence of a cozy brick fireplace and Phillips Craig and Dean in place of the Gaithers (sorry Bill and Gloria), I think I'm keeping the tradition alive. One thing is for sure. The spotlight was always on the baby. Jesus was always the centerpiece, focus and meaning behind all of it. His beauty reflected in the decor, His musical praises filling the air, the feasting in celebration of Him and His sacrificial, servant spirit of love wrapping every gift. Santa was a benign fairy tale that may have made a momentary appearance on the odd wrapping paper or sing-along song, but Jesus...He was and still is what makes the whole thing magical.

magical (n.): "Art of influencing events and producing marvels using hidden natural forces."

He produces marvels using His own natural forces.
He influences all the events of our lives.
He is hidden to those who refuse to believe.
Without Him, Christmas would just be fluffy snow and empty stockings.

...believe...and experience the fullness of His glory!