Wednesday, December 31, 2008

It's been great, but goodbye 2008

It's New Year's Eve. It's time to reminisce. It's time for countdowns and highlights and top ten lists from the year coming to a close. And it's time for parties. Jules at The Roost is doing all of that on her blog. She's hosting a picture party and is my inspiration today.

Here are some of my favorite pictures of 2008 not so much because the photography is good, but rather because of the memories they invoke. And actually, the first two are not really photographs, but they highlight some outstanding 2008 moments for me. The other 8 are just some special memories.

1. Ella Minnow Pea:
I read a lot of books, but not much fiction. This little book was an exceptional exception. Ella Minnow Pea is a satirical "novel in letters" that had me laughing out loud.

2. Mamma Mia:

We don't go to the theatre to see many movies. We usually wait for the DVD. However, when our travel plans fell through one weekend, we ended up at the theatre to see Mamma Mia! Again, not typically the type of movie we go to see and not one the best movies I've ever seen, but, oh, how it made me want to laugh and sing and dance! Not many things do that for me. I still laugh every time I think about Pierce Brosnon singing "SOS."

3. The Man with the Camera:

You know who is always missing from all the photos? The man with the camera. We had a big anniversary celebration at church back in October. I took my camera that day, and this is the ONLY photo I took. I love it because there are never any pictures of him - He's always behind the camera. He, of course, took several hundred photos that day. (and he wasn't in a single one of them!). He does excellent work. He's the one linked on my sidebar.

4. The Birthday Cake:

My absolute favorite, plain pound cake made from scratch by my absolute favorite, anything-but-plain husband. Yum. It's one of those memories I can smell.

5. A Friendship Garden:

Phyllis and Laney delivered this little garden to my office and made me feel so special. It was so thoughtful and warmed my heart so. You can read about it here.

6. More Friendship and a little Fiesta:

The Christmas Tree Fiesta plates are the best gift ever from the best friend ever. She loves Jesus and it shows in everything she does!

7. Mom and Dad: This picture was taken during a summer visit to their house (we live 3 hours apart). Smiles, pink cheeks, plaids, and polka dots.

8. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - no, wait, it's the CAT that's hot, not the roof...
I love this picture because for one, Marbles is quite camera shy and often runs away even before she hears the shutter click. Two, even if we do get a picture of her, it's never of her belly. She's a little modest about that too. The look on her face here just seems to say, "It's July and I'm wearing a fur coat. Leave me alone while I try to cool it all off."

9. Hillbilly Sisters:In July I went to a different time zone to sister #1's house to celebrate sister #2's 50th birthday. Of course there was cake. And all three of us brought presents for each other. Hillbilly teeth was one of them. We laughed so hard at this that one of us had to have a wardrobe change. Not saying who (but it was NOT sister #3!). Quite a giggle fit, it was. Still makes me laugh.

10. Christmas Music

This was one of those things that I felt so privileged to be a part of. It's hard to explain. Our church joined with another local church to present this musical, which made it more powerful than it ever would have been on our own. Every song was about the name of Jesus. (And by the way, the Man with the Camera mentioned in #3 took this photo). We worshiped and praised Jesus with some new faces and friends and it was wonderful. I'm praying for more of that kind of thing for 2009.

Happy New Year!

Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." 1 Chronicles 29-12-14

More or Less

I have never really one to make resolutions on New Years. It usually takes me too long to finally make up my mind about something, especially something life changing. By the time I convince myself mentally, it's way past January 1 and on into the summer. By then swimsuit season is in full swing, so no use to make the weight loss commitment and reading the Bible through in a year, well, if I double up I can do it in six months, can't I? (Have you ever read the entire books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in one sitting?!)

Plus, the older I get, the harder it is to change my life anyway.

I don't really have a detailed plan, but I do have a prayer for the new 2009 year.

Here it is:

He must become greater; I must become less. John 3:30

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

And in my experience, Virginia IS Santa Claus. Actually, we call her Ginger, but I'm pretty sure her driver's license lists her as Virginia.

If you read my letter to Santa, you might already know that I asked him to bring me Christmas Tree Fiesta dishes. Well, he obviously delivered them to Ginger's house and being the sweet friend that she is, she wrapped them up and made sure they found their way to me.

It was the Sunday after Christmas. We had just come back from a holiday visit out of town while Ginger and her husband were packing up to leave on their own trip, plus she had other family coming over. We didn't have a lot of time, so we drove over to their house and just stood on the sidewalk for a quick visit. She put the beautifully wrapped gift in the back seat of my car.

Scott and I had several places we wanted to go that day. When we left their house we didn't go home, we just set out from there. So, the unopened gift sat in the back seat of the car all day long.

It was dark and late when we finally got home. One of the last places we went that day was the grocery store, so we had all those grocery bags to unload as well as some other things we'd gathered that day, including the gift box from Ginger. Then I had to put the groceries away, tend to the cat, make some phone calls before it got too late, and God only knows what else I busied myself with. I still hadn't opened the gift. And really, that's not like me at all. I usually can't wait to unwrap a gift, or at least peek in the gift bag.

On top of all that we had planned to do that day, it was also the day of my Christmas crash. You know, the big let down after a month of all the extras: extra family visits, extra food, extra choir rehearsals, extra mail, extra boxes and tape, extra programs, extra activities, extra decorations, extra emotions, extra sentiments. And then all of a sudden, boom, it's over. Hurry up and clean up and pack up and straighten up and tighten up and wake up and go back to work.

My crash was not as much physical as it was emotional. I was already over the edge and heading down when I finally got around to opening the box from Ginger that night. I don't think I've ever cried over dishes before, except maybe some broken ones, but these Christmas Tree Fiesta dishes made me cry. They made me cry because they are perfect. Beautifully perfect in more ways than one.

I don't deserve such a sweet friend. When Ginger and I first met at church, she made an extra special effort to become my friend. We did some Bible study and choir things together, then one day she invited me to her house for lunch. That was a couple of years ago. Since then she has become my weekly prayer partner and scripture memory encourager.

Ginger chose me to be her friend. Ginger knew my heart and made the special effort to fill it. Those are things Jesus would do. Ginger has shown and been Jesus to me.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:15-17

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Shrinkin' Violette Christmas

I'm having a little trouble getting in to the gifting thing this Christmas. I don't know if it's all the talk about the economy or something else that's flattened my jingle bells. I just haven't gotten too excited about buying gifts. And I don't even want to think about someone buying me something. Oh, the undue pressure of reciprocal gift giving.

I can't remember what I gifts I bought my family last year. Do they even remember what I bought them?

I do remember receiving some money last year, but I don't recall anything else that I unwrapped.


There's another Christmas gift-related incident that I don't remember, but have been reminded of several times. Let me introduce you to Shrinkin' Violette. I never knew her personally myself, although there was a time when I wanted to. She had yellow yarn hair. She also had a pull string that allowed her talk. She said things like "I'm shy."

I was only two or three years old, so I do not remember any of it, but apparently even at that tender age, I was sucked in by the Mattell toy marketing. I guess I had seen one too many of her commericals because as my mother tells it, when asked what I wanted for Christmas that year my response would always be "a Shrinkin' Violette doll."

I think Shrinkin' Violette unnerved my mother a little. Like some questionable video games and dark, evil-ish toys sold today, I think Mom thought Shrinkin' Violette would be a bad influence on a little three year old girl. After all, her name does sound a bit negative and I believe that my mother didn't think it was wise for me to love something so much that had those kind of connotations.

I can understand my mother's concern. Trying to raise a daughter to be strong, confident, smart and independent is tough enough even in the best of circumstances. Why would you want to jeopardize any of that with a doll whose name says she just wants to run away and hide.

So, Christmas morning came that year. Mom says that after all the gifts were opened, all I could scream was "Where's my Shrinkin' Violette doll, where's my Shrinking Violette doll?" Over and over.

Mom used her sound judgement that year and left Shrinkin' Violette on the Island of Misfit Toys. We laugh about that story now. We laugh about how I cried and cried over a silly little doll that I didn't get that year and paid no attention whatsoever to all the other lovely gifts.

Now, all these years later, I still don't even remember a single Shrinkin' Violette TV commercial, much less not having one of the dolls of my own. So, I guess the moral of the story and what I'm trying to tell myself is - - don't stress over the shopping or the gifts. It doesn't really matter. None of us will remember the gifts anyway.

What we will remember are the stories and tales that will be written when we spend time together. Years from now we will reminisce about all the laughing we did over some Wii game we played together, but we won't be able to remember that it was called Wii. We'll remember shopping together and laughing about whether to choose blouses with ruffles or no-ruffles, but we won't remember what we bought.

Most of all, since I was born generations later and since I've never even been to Bethlehem, I have no personal memory of the night Jesus was born. I can't say, "I'll never forget that night," because I wasn't there. I wasn't there to bring Him frankincense or to play my drum. That hasn't topped Him from wanting to spend time with me. And, funny, but the time He and I spend together are not really memory-making moments. They are future-making moments. We both are looking forward.

He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hey, lo, and behold, there are halos and wings in my tree

I don't really know when it happened. I'm not sure how it all started. Looking back now, I think it began with her: Years ago, Scott and I were on a mini-vacation in Helen, Georgia and we bought this little carved wood angel ornament at a Christmas shop there as a souvenir. It was Bavarian-esque and a cute little reminder of our trip.

A few years later, I realized that every time we took a trip I looked for Christmas ornaments to take home as souvenirs. Like these guys (yes, DisneyWorld):

Once we took a vacation to Virginia with my in-laws. My mother-in-law bought me this beautiful blown glass ornament in Williamsburg. It's even more special now because last year she took up her eternal residence with the angels.

And then, after a few more trips, I realized that not only was I buying souvenir ornaments, specifically they were angel ornaments. I didn't plan it that way. It just happened.

I began finding angels made out of other things....

Like okra

and sea critters

and macaroni

and cotton bolls

and straw

I also discovered, that like the wise men, angel ornaments often come in sets of three. I like to think of them representing me and my two sisters. Yes, three little angels. (well, OK, so that's a little debatable).

And then Marbles the Cat made herself at home at our house and I began looking for cat angel ornaments. On the back of this one I wrote "Marbles' 1st Christmas 2004".

And subsequent years...

And then I bought some angel ornaments just because they had red hair like me.

And there are many, many others. Angels with heart shapes. Musical angels. On and on.By the time I realized what was happening, I couldn't stop myself. It has become almost a quest to see if I can find angel ornaments wherever I go. Now, my Christmas tree is full of angel ornaments. Well, almost full. There's always room for one more. There's lots of good news to share.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." Luke 2:13-14

The costly kings

I'm not usually an impulse shopper, but this particular day I must have really been in the Christmas spirit. It was a few years ago when I came across these little Magi ornaments and they were not cheap. (well, they might be cheaply made, but the price tag was not!) They are very delicate and breakable, made of something that is a cross between glass and egg shells. I just had to have them.

They were sold separately, not as a set. Please tell me, who would want just one wise man?! Certainly not me. I had to have all three of them. So I bought them. All three of them.

I don't remember exactly how much they cost, I just remember it was way more than I should have been spending on ornaments. I haven't seen any like them since, so I'm glad I have them. They always make me smile when I unpack them every Christmas.

I mean, look at those little camels. Don't they make you giggle just a little? They are just so adorable that I think they deserve their own little spotlight, so I don't hang them on our tree. Plus, they cost enough to deserve a little extra attention. I set them out on a little ledge near the tree opposite this nativity scene, as if they are making their way over there...

The nativity scene is a handblown glass ornament that was given to us by some friends at church. The yellow coaster is my added touch of Fiesta decor. I always have to add color.

These little things are special for lots of reasons, but mostly because they remind me that a Savior traded in his kingly robe and crown for a cloak of human skin. And He did it for me. He did it so that I would have a crown one day. I want to be like those Magi. I want to kneel in the presence of Jesus and lay my crown at His feet.

Lord, teach me how to be a wise woman. Show me how to let all the glory be Yours and not to think any of it belongs to me.

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:9-12

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Orange you glad it's Christmas

There's something about a bowl full of citrus fruit that says, "It's Christmas!"

I like to hold an orange or a tangerine close to my nose and inhale deeply. Ahh, the smell. Or better yet, peel it by hand without using a knife. Then rinse my hands with just water. No soap. That way my hands smell like citrus for a little while afterwards. Ahhhhh.

We were gifted with a large box of oranges and grapefruits a couple of days ago (way more than what the picture shows!). I think it's a perfect gift.

For one, it reminds me of growing up in Flordia. Two, it brings back Christmas memories. Especially of my Christmas stocking. When I was little girl we always got tangerines in our stockings. There were pecans and Hershey's kisses in there too, but the tangerines were my favorite. Still are.

This is a picture of my original stocking. It's a hundred years old (well, not really, but almost). My mom made these stockings for me and my two sisters. I still pull it out every year. We don't have anything that even resembles a fireplace in our house, so I have hung it on a lamp. That's the closest thing to a heat and light source I could come up with.

I love this little, old stocking because it looks like mom used her silk stockings as a pattern. And there's a jingle bell sewn on the toe. It's very narrow at the ankle and sometimes made getting those tangerines out a little challenging. You couldn't put a lot in there. Hmmm, maybe that was the idea...

And speaking of stockings, I have a new kind of stocking, sort of. It's my table runner. I love it because it's not only fun, it has several bright colors in it. It allows me to use more of my Fiestaware than just the red and green. Come on over and I'll serve you up a nice big bowl of navel oranges and pink grapefruit, peeled by hand of course. The pink and orange fruit will go just perfectly with the table setting, don't you think?!

And if you have to have salt on your grapefruit (I will NEVER understand that, but some people insist it makes it better), then I'll bring these guys over from the kitchen counter. Santa & Mrs. Claus and Mr. & Mrs. Snowfolk salt & pepper shakers are like my extended family. (They are like the Pilgrims that I told you about here.) Scott affectionately gave them the moniker of the Publix Team, a reference to their place of origin.

We do have tree and some other Christmasy things that help make our house festive. Stay tuned. I'll share some more soon. What's up at your house?

UPDATE: Let me show you my Magi, click here.
and for my angel ornaments click here.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Worthy of Worship

This year our church choir has combined with another local church choir to present a Christmas musical. We will present the musical and their church this coming Sunday, and then at our church the following Sunday.

Joining with another choir really heightens the excitement and motivation and volume (in the number of voices and in the decibels of those voices) and a whole lot of the other things. I’ve met some new friends at the combined rehearsals. I’ve gotten to know some current friends a little better seeing them work in a different atmosphere. Overall, I think it’s been a very positive experience.

Why do people choose to attend one of those churches instead of the other? I don’t really know why specifically, I just know that people have their reasons. Both are Baptist churches. They are probably less than five miles apart. The churches may look similar in architecture and landscaping, but what goes on inside is what makes the difference. Even though we are alike in some ways, they way we worship may be completely different.

We thought about all the different ways people worship as we got ready to type up the program. Knowing that there would be some crossover attendees from the different churches (and hopefully some who haven’t yet met the Savior or found a church to attend), we wanted to put some kind of blurb in the program that would reassure anyone that absolutely any expression of worship of Jesus Christ would be gladly accepted and welcomed.

When you’re looking for the right kind of words to say something like that, the best place to go is scripture. Here’s what we put in the program:

We are honored to be able to present this program to you and we would consider it our great joy to have you worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in any way worthy of His majesty and glory.

He has created us to praise Him. He has given us the tools. He has given us instruction.

Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Psalm 100:2

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. Psalm 47:1

Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord. Psalm 134:2

Let the name of the Lord be praise, both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:2

After searching the scriptures for that instruction, it sort of made me think about the way I express my worship. Do I do it the way He says to do it? The scripture doesn’t really say anything about “if you’re your comfortable, then do it.” It just says do it. Hmmmm.

What about you? How do you express your worship?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I love it. I hate it.

My favorite thing to drink in the whole wide world is Coke Zero over ice. The ice is very important. But, please, don’t put me at a table where someone needs/wants to crunch their ice after all the liquid is gone. Aaarrrrrrggghhh. Like fingernails on a chalkboard, it makes me shiver.

I love it when guests staying at my house want to buy the groceries and cook a special meal. Yay and amen to that. But, my goodness, do I really need Stove Top stuffing, rice, potatoes, AND corn all in the same meal? And by the way, macaroni and cheese is not a vegetable. Can you say starch overload? I’m in need of a big salad.

I love coming home to a freshly vacuumed, dust-free house where all the dishes are clean and put away and the laundry basket it empty. Oh, and the bathrooms are sparkling clean. I always make sure all those things are done before company arrives, but I seem to refrain from attempting any such tasks as long as the company stays. If it’s an extended say, I really get behind. Sadly, not one of those things is on my list of favorite things to do. Especially the bathroom thing. Ugh. I have date later with a toilet scrubber.

I love it when I get to leave my office for lunch. The hardest part of the day is coming back to the office an hour later.

I love cracking open a new book. Especially if it is one that has been in my “to be read” stack for quite a while. It is always disappointing, however, to get to the final page and realize I have to say goodbye to my new friend.

I love reading other people’s blogs. Then I realize I’ve used up all my time reading and haven’t written or posted a thing on my own blog. I hate that.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to the last few days. Caught somewhere on the edge of few of my favorite things turning in to my “how did I let it get this far?” list.

Maybe I have a control issue. Or, maybe it is a LACK-of-control issue. Maybe I love those things too much. I think my intentions are good initially, but I lose sight of what makes those things good in the first place.

And then I read about myself in the Bible…
You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:3-5
Jeepers. I really did lose sight, didn’t I? OK, God, you’ll be my favorite today.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The beauty of sleep

I guess you could consider it a tradition. It’s something Scott and I do every year as we anticipate the Christmas season. We always buy a new Christmas CD. It’s one of the first things we do to get us in the holiday spirit.

I think early on we bought only one each year. As the years went on and we became more and more aware that our musical tastes were developing as complete polar opposites, we started buying one apiece. Then it became two, or three, or four – each.

Needless to say, after all these many Christmas seasons together, we have a large collection of holiday music CDs.

One of my all time favorites is the soundtrack to The Muppet Christmas Carol. It is usually the first Christmas CD I pull out of the rack to play. The track I hit the repeat button most often for from that CD: One more sleep ‘til Christmas.

There's something in the wind today
That's good for everyone
Yes, faith is in our hearts today
We're shining like the sun
And everyone can feel it, the feeling's running deep
After all, there's only one more sleep ‘til Christmas

There are a couple of my favorite Christmas songs that are on CD’s that are not “technically” Christmas albums, but I play them during the holidays anyway because they really are Christmas songs. Welcome to Our World is one (Chris Rice and Michael W. Smith both recorded this one.)
Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking heavens silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

And then there’s Rich Mullin’s You Gotta Get Up. Also not on a Christmas album, but still speaks of the season.

Did my sister get her baby doll? Did my brother get his bike?
Did I get that red wagon, the kind that makes you fly?
Oh, I hope there'll be peace on earth
I know there's good will toward men
On account of that Baby born in Bethlehem
Mom and Daddy stayed up too late last night
Oh, I guess they got carried away in the Christmas candlelight
And you gotta get up, you gotta get up, you gotta get up
It's Christmas morning

This year, my purchase (so far, anyway) was Sara Groves’ O Holy Night. I’m really, really, really, loving the Cradle in Bethlehem song. (I’ve since learned that Vince Gill recorded this song several years ago).

Sing sweet and low your lullaby till angels say, "Amen."
A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem
while wise men follow through the dark a star that beckons them.
A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem.
"A little child shall lead them," the prophets said of old.
In tempest storms he leads men far as the bell is tolled.
Sing sweet and low your lullaby till angels say, "Amen."
A mother tonight is rocking a cradle in Bethlehem

As I listened to these songs over and over on my iPod, I noticed something. All of these favorite songs had something in common (besides the obvious Christmas theme and birth of our Savior).
They all have something to do with sleep. If it’s not in the lyrics, the tune itself is a lullaby. Sleep, sweet peaceful sleep.

I just don’t get much of that. Especially not this time of year. There is always so much ‘extra’ stuff to do and finish and stress over. I’m not an easy sleeper even during a non-holiday season. I need absolute quiet, darkness, and stillness before I can rest. The least little thing will have my eyelids popping open. Add a little holiday activity and I’m awake for the duration. (No wonder Santa doesn’t come to my house!)

God knows I need some sleep. I think that’s why I’ve been drawn to all these sleepy songs lately. I know the Savior wants me to know the peace that He came into this world to bring me. Peace that will allow me to rest easy. Not because there is no work left to do. Quite the contrary, actually. There is still a lot of work to do, but it’s in doing the work of my Savior that gives me the privilege of saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Ahhh, I feel a nap coming on now.

Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared. Proverbs 3:23-25

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wii Wii Wii all the way home

What would a post-Thanksgiving post be without a picture of someone carving the turkey. Thanks, David.

I think I was eating it about as fast as he could cut it. And I have proof. I'm not sure which one is the REAL turkey in this one...

And in keeping with the theme of being well fed, let me tell you a joke I heard last week.

The 3 Little Pigs went out for dinner.

The waiter came to take their drink orders.

Little Pig #1 said, "I'll have a glass of water."

Little Pig #2 said, "I'll have a glass of iced tea.'

Little Pig #3 said, "I'll have three beers."

The waiter later returned with all the drinks, and then asked for their entree orders.

Little Pig #1 said, "I'll have the chicken."

Little Pig #2 said, "I'll have the steak."

Little Pig #3 said, "I'll have three beers."

Later, after the Little Pigs had finished their main course, the waiter returns and asks for their dessert orders.

Little Pig #1 said, "I'll have the cake."

Little Pig #2 said, "I'll have the pie."

Little Pig #3 said, "I have three beers."

Finally the waiter asked Pig #3, "Why all the beer and no food?"

To which Little Pig #3 said, "Someone has to wee, wee, wee all the way home!"

Insert laugh here. OK, now it's your turn. Heard any good, clean jokes lately?

And speaking of wee, or rather, Wii, here's how we worked off all that turkey we ate. Thanks, Dan for bringing the exercise equipment, i.e., the toy. I think I should be thankful that I was the one holding the camera in this one. Click the arrow to watch the video of the nieces and sisters wii-ing. It makes me laugh.

You may eat any clean bird. Deuteronomy 14:11