Archive for Christmas

Waking From Winter Dreams

Christmas Tree 2006

This was the week to gaze upon the Christmas tree fondly one last time before packing it up with all the fond reflections of the season. This year our tree gained some precious family memories for me that can be represented solely by the simple strands of popcorn that adorned it. Originally, families would string popcorn, cranberries and other food as a symbol of “plenty”; a representation of the Garden of Eden and God’s abundant provisions. Our family endured many a financial trial this year with my husband being without a consistent paycheck for approximately six months and no paycheck at all for about two months. However, in the midst of all of this, God’s provisions were ever-present and we were able to keep our home, feed our babes and end the year with the blessing of a new job!

Goodbye Ornaments 2006

As I was taking the ornaments off our tree this week, I reflected on the funeral of a dear friend and his son that was occurring nearly simultaneously. Prayers of a teary-eyed sister-in-Christ rose with great effort above the cemetary of ornaments that decorated my floor. I imagined my dear friend mourning over the tragic loss of her husband and five-year-old son and the day she would take down her own Christmas tree this year, pack away ornaments that could bring no joy at a time such as this, and the process of beginning to sort through the memories she is only now beginning to unpack in her mind. There is a wonderful peace in knowing that her beloved husband and son are with the Lord, a pleasure we can only imagine in their absence, but the ache in my heart for my dear friend and the two sons she will now raise as a single mother is tremendous. The ornaments appeared almost dream-like through my teary gaze and I thanked God that our trials of this year were so minute in contrast.

Christmas Decor 2006

The origami balloon light covers are the only remnant of our Christmas that remain. I am so thankful to have happened upon this brilliant idea over at Alicia’s. She never fails to share such loveliness as this. I intend to leave them up year-round as they bring me a wonderful sense of calm and contentment and they add such a warm element to our home. Our home blessed with two lovely little girls, a husband who adores me in spite of myself, a beautiful miracle of our very own to be born any day now and a hope that there will be many more days ahead upon which we can reflect in our golden years – years that are now only a possibility, yet a possibility some will only experience with their beloved in dreams. Dream well, my precious friend Deanna…dream well.

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A little vanity goes a long way

Vanity Tray collage

Well, now that Christmas sadly has come and gone, I can share about my holiday gifting craft. I saw a beautiful tray on ebay this summer that was made from a window pane and I just adored it. While I didn’t bid on it, I did imagine making one of my own. About August I was pondering the idea of making vanity trays from picture frames, and from that idea these were born.

Over time the trays evolved from merely a table-top display to a glass-etched initialed screen for collages of “a few of my favorite things” that can be displayed standing upright, laying flat or hanging daintily adorned with favorite pieces of jewelry.

This was a precious craft because I was able to personalize each tray and choose colors and ribbons that reflected personality. My hubby also designed the presentation instructions for me – he is so artistic and he knows how to produce the pictures in my mind. Of course that comes of having a husband who lists web designer among his many talents.

Our oldest daughter expressed how much she wanted one of these and I wasn’t sure if it was a heartfelt desire or if it was simply because her perception of the amount of work that was invested made it appealing. However, when she opened the gift (as I was already making one for each of the girls), she smiled gratefully. It wasn’t until I went up to her room to say goodnight that evening and saw that it was already hanging above her bed with a cross and favorite hat dressing it that I knew she really did love it.

That gave me such a warm feeling inside…the kind of feeling that encourages me that I may not always fall short of the mother I would like to be.

I will be adding precious, handwritten notes to these frames on their birthdays along with new bookmarks, patches, photos and such through the years. They will be like my own personal message board to the girls. I also look forward to dangling a lovely new gift of jewelry on them on special occassions.

Complete Vanity Tray

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Winter Wonderland

Winter Village Project

Here it is! This is our winter village scene…1 church, 1 school house and 9 homes. It was quite the project but I knew that with a wee one on the way that next year would probably not be conducive to such a time consuming project that required drying time without little hands of investigation.

I got this pattern out of my December 2000 Martha Stewart magazine – it only took me six years to get to this craft! I scanned the patterns into my computer and proceeded to enlarge and hold tracing paper up to the monitor to trace them out (of course our printer went on strike only days before I planned to start this project). So, the houses would probably be condemned if they were life size but they are so cute in their humble miniature form that you forgive them their shortcomings. It’s amazing what a heap of “snow” will do for a shoddy roof job!

As you can see, I went on to create templates and then to cut and score them piece by piece. We had several pieces of cardboard inserts from copy paper boxes and those worked like a charm. The next step was to spray paint them with primer and glue them together. Then it was on to the painting. We have an eclectic little village here with no HOA rules to stifle the Miami-ish vibes that permeate a home or two!

The school and church were my hubby’s painted and shingled works of art, while I threw together the other nine like an Arizona day laborer trying to get home for my afternoon siesta. Heaven knows I contemplated what a great idea that cultural ideal was after constructing these!

Next year we plan to add a post office and fire station to the collection and we are considering doing those in wood and then gradually replacing the pieces with wooden replicas over the years. Hubby loves wood working and as long as the project is not overwhelming (like 11 houses in a week) he will enjoy the journey.

My recommendation to anyone who is wanting to do this project for next year is to start now and do one a month. Also, you may want to cut a slit in the backside of each home to insert a strand of lights. This will illuminate the homes’ vellum windows quite nicely while allowing the homes to stay planted firmly on the ground.

I plan on enjoying our winter village through the month of January, in the least, because living in Arizona deprives us of much of a winter and there is nary a snowflake to be seen. Our children have fondly claimed the green and brown two-story home because it resembles our own. So, in our own magical way we did have a white Christmas.

Winter Village Collage

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Wreath: Middle English wrethe, from Old English writha; akin to Old English wrIthan to twist



I had resolved to have no wreath on the door this year since in years past we have purchased a fresh wreath from Costco and I didn’t like the wreath they were offering this year. It was just “too much” and it already looked kind of dead. Now, I am pretty picky when it comes to decorating so for me to say it was “too much” just meant that the ribbon and adornments were not my taste. I prefer simplicity to excess any day.

Wreath knocker


BUT, I stopped by Lowe’s to check out their rosemary trees because I wanted something to plant in the pathetically lonely pot next to our front door and I happened upon a sign…”50% off all Christmas merchandise”. Now, mind you, I had already spotted their artificial Christmas wreaths and had balked at spending anything remotely near the price they were marked. However, sale signs have a way of beckoning you back with fresh eyes, and the fact that I also carried a Lowe’s gift certificate in my purse sealed the deal. I picked up a wreath for about eight bucks and found some lovely rustic looking ornaments fashioned out of metal and wood.


Wooden ball


I had a few baby pinecones and some marvelous vintage, red, wooden beads that my hubby’s mum passed on to us this year. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to receive those! I love them because they remind me of strung cranberries. I also learned that Christmas wreaths were fashioned as a symbol of the crown Christ wore at His death and that the red cranberries found on many wreaths are symbolic of the blood He shed.

Door wreath



A twist here, tuck there and here we have it…it just makes me feel happy to see it on our door. I love seeing the red, vintage, wooden beads. I love knowing that I will see it again next year and get the same happy feelings that are unique to Christmastime. Now if only it smelled like a real tree…

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“believe”

What a powerful word “believe” is. It’s one of those words that conjures up a thousand different images. This time of year it is easy to read that word and hear it whispered to you from the pages of a book likened to “The Polar Express” or “The Night Before Christmas”. The word can also breathe life into those things we believed as a child:


“my dad used to tell me that if you pointed at things, you were poking holes in the air and the fairies/birds would trip over them.i’m still hesitant to poke holes..”

“I used to believe that there was a magical ingredient in birthday cakes that allowed you to age another year, and that’s why you had to eat it.”

“I used to believe that my parents relied on me to make the traffic lights green. I would do this by absorbing the green from trees and grass with my eyes and beam it into the traffic lights. If i was given enough time i had a 100% success rate.”

You might find that this single word forges deep, philosophical rivers of uncertainty. “What do I believe?” Rivers that pool into streams you may have never visited, that beg the answers to “Why do I believe?”

I believe the Bible is the living, God-breathed word of my Creator and Savior and here are some of the reasons why.

The Bible was written over a 1,500 year span by more than 40 authors from all walks of life, written at different times during different stages of life, on 3 continents in 3 languages, and yet its writings embodied conformity on many controversial topics.

The Bible spoke of the spherical form of the earth in Isaiah 40:22 (written around 700 BC), “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth“, while Copernicus wasn’t credited with this confirmation until 1543.

The Bible spoke of the existence of atoms in Hebrews 11:3 (written around 70 AD), “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible“, while this was not discovered by John Dalton until 1803.

The Bible spoke of the earth’s suspension in space in Job 26:7 (written around 2000 BC), “He spreads out the northern skies over empty spaces; He suspends the earth over nothing“, while Copernicus discovered this in 1543.

Prophecies fulfilled (just a few):

The son of God will be born in Bethlehem…Micah 5:2
He will be preceded by a messenger…Isaiah 40:3
He will enter Jerusalem on a donkey…Zechariah 9:19
His hands and feet will be pierced…Psalm 22:16
He will be sold for 30 pieces of silver…Zechariah 11:12
He will be silent before His accusers…Isaiah 53:7
He will be crucified with thieves…Isaiah 53:12

For all those who once believed in the impossibilities of a fat and jolly old elf squeezing down a chimney that had a hole no bigger than a basketball…
May you be inspired by the life of a bishop who lived for the glorification of Christ only a few hundred years after his death and resurrection.

For all of those who once believed factories make clouds, mirrors are windows to other worlds, toys come alive at night while you sleep, or cash from the ATM was free money…
May you marvel at the ingenuity of the human mind to invent fantastical realities AND fantastical stories.

For all those who believe that God is their cosmic Mr. Fix-It just waiting to “get ‘er done” for you, an order-taker waiting to fulfill your every desire, a mafia man waiting for the perfect hit to take you out, or a love child who stands for nothing and accepts everything with an “it’s all good” attitude…
May you be captivated by the birth of a child who lived for the purpose of dying for you.



This Christmas, may you truly believe.

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St. Nicholas

The truth about Santa Claus

It’s been a long journey from the Fourth Century Bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas, who showed his devotion to God in extraordinary kindness and generosity, to America’s jolly Santa Claus. However, if you peel back the accretions he is still Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, whose caring surprises continue to model true giving and faithfulness.

There is growing interest in reclaiming the original saint in the United States to help restore the spiritual dimension of this festive time. For indeed, St. Nicholas, lover of the poor and patron saint of children, is a model of how Christians are meant to live. A bishop, Nicholas put Jesus Christ at the center of his life, his ministry, his entire existence. Families, churches, and schools are embracing true St Nicholas traditions as one way to claim the true center of Christmas—the birth of Jesus. Such a focus helps restore balance to increasingly materialistic and stress-filled Advent and Christmas seasons.

The evolution of St. Nicholas to Santa Claus

In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the society and on St. Nicholas Day that year he published the satirical fiction, Knickerbocker’s History of New York, with numerous references to a jolly St. Nicholas character. This was not a saintly bishop, rather an elfin Dutch burgher with a clay pipe. These delightful flights of imagination are the origin of the New Amsterdam St. Nicholas legends: that the first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of St. Nicholas; that St. Nicholas Day was observed in the colony; that the first church was dedicated to him; and that St. Nicholas comes down chimneys to bring gifts. Irving’s work was regarded as the “first notable work of imagination in the New World.”

The jolly elf image received a big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” now better known as “The Night Before Christmas.”

 

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to the those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.

  

One of the most famous legends about his life tells of a poor man who was unable to provide dowries for his three daughters. If he couldn’t get them married, he’d have to sell them into slavery. Hearing of the family’s predicament, Nicholas took a bag (or a sock, as some versions have it) of gold, enough for a dowry, and tossed it into the family’s house through the window (or down the chimney). He repeated his anonymous gift for each of the daughters, enabling the girls to marry.

Many of the fun activities that we now associate with the holidays arise from commemorations of Saint Nicholas. Our practice of giving gifts at Christmas time came from the commemoration of the dowries, as well as the gifts of the Magi. The foil-covered chocolate coins that find their way into Christmas stockings are reminiscent of the dowries, as are the stockings themselves. And when we awake to find gifts that arrived anonymously in the night, we can recall the socks full of gold that came through the chimney (or the window) to save the lives of the three young women.

Q: How did he evolve into the present-day Santa Claus?

Seal: The love of Nicholas kept his cult alive up until the late 18th century in Manhattan, where a re-versioning of Santa Claus occurred.

The name “Santa Claus” is an American accented version of the Dutch “Sinterklaas.” St. Nicholas and Santa Claus are the same person, but many people don’t realize that. They are one in the same, but they look different because they are at different points in his posthumous evolution.

We don’t know when the idea was carried from Northern Europe to New Amsterdam, now Manhattan. It’s safe to say he came with early settlers as a fake memory and was then dormant in North America until the late 18th century.

What happened then was that gift giving, which had been until that time a local and seasonal exchange of homemade objects, exploded into something bigger. Mass manufacturing began, retail shops opened, toys became available from Northern Europe, and books, musical instruments and linens all became purchasable.

The effect this had was that gift-giving customs were transformed out of all recognition. This caused the need for a providing spirit of gift giving. St. Nicholas was the gift giver from the old world in the Dutch and English traditions; they didn’t have to think back too far to remember him.

People in the late 18th century popularized the idea of Santa Claus, but not too deliberately at that time for commercialization. He began to emerge then and his name gradually changed into Santa Claus.

In the 1820s he began to acquire the recognizable trappings: reindeer, sleigh, bells. They are simply the actual bearings in the world from which he emerged. At that time, sleighs were how you got about Manhattan.

The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” debuted in 1822 and described all his details. He smoked a pipe then, but was well on the way to be the figure we know now.

As all these elements took shape around him, he became more and more associated with commercialism, which is understandable but a corruption of what he originally meant. In the medieval period he was a symbol and icon of charity. I am not sure that is true anymore; he seems to be a strange mixture of charity and rampant commercialism.

 

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