Happy Christmas Week to you!

Here it is, the week of Christmas. We are done with schoolwork until 2010 and I am looking forward to enjoying a couple weeks of fun and play.

I haven’t written much about our Advent/Christmas related activities this year, mostly because I’ve been busy living them. But now that we’re on vacation, and I mostly have fun things on my to-do list (like Make more Jar Gifts, Play with Ribbon and the Trimmings from the bottom of the tree, sew for the Blessings, etc), I feel like I have time to post a bit.

This season has presented many opportunities for me to learn contentment with the not-perfect. And I’m thankful for that, which is another God thing.

A few example of my opportunities:
I’ve felt several steps behind for the last few weeks, greatly because I came out of my first trimester fog in mid-to-late November and had lots of catching up to do before I felt like I could focus on Advent/Christmas. What a wonderful reason for needing to skip some things!
We didn’t manage to do the Jesse Tree this year, which I miss, but it just wasn’t doable, and I’m ok with that.
Our Christmas decorating started late, but the house looks lovely and the Blessings helped, which is a treat for them and for me.
We had some unexpected emergency repairs that needed to be made to the van (to the tune of +$700), which put a cramp in what we thought we were doing for the Blessings for Christmas. But we try to not focus on the gifts anyway, and this has actually made that easier, as well as giving me the chance to get creative with the fabric we have on hand!

We were late to start our Advent Wreath, but have loved our times of sitting around the table reading Scripture and singing hymns and carols by candlelight. The Advent Wreath has become one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. The hush of our hearts in worship, the sound of our voices singing beloved songs together, the flicker of the candles… oh how I love it!

I’ll close this somewhat random post with an article that Jonathan and I wrote on behalf of our chapel that will be published in the mid-week Missourian:

As we anticipate Christmas, our thoughts turn to shepherds, stars, angels, Mary, Joseph, and especially to that baby born in a stable in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1.15), born in human flesh, he was fully God and fully man. We sense the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us, and our hearts are filled with thankfulness and joy.

Yet, in the midst of our Christmas celebrations, how often we forget why He came. The goal of the incarnation was not simply to have the Son born as a baby, to give us thoughts of sweetness and light. No, the goal of the incarnation, established before the world was formed by the very words of God, was for the Son to be slain to pay the penalty for the sins of the creation that would turn against the Creator. β€œFor our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5.21) We know that victory also lay in the path of that baby born in Bethlehem – Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day to show that the price had been paid, that sin and death had been conquered. But first, the anguish of the cross for our eternal life.

So as we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas, may we keep in mind that, as wonderful as it is to contemplate, it was not His birth that brought us the hope of salvation. He was born to die, so that we might live forever. May you come to know Him in a fuller way this Christmas.


The Story

I wanted to share the verses I’m going to be reading to the kids today at our Good News Club Christmas party. It’s all so amazing and overwhelming to me that it’s hard to read without tears. That my Creator came so humbly, for the express purpose of dying on the cross 30-some years later – to pay the eternal price for my sin. Behold! What Love!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
(Luke 2:1-20)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
(Col 1:15-17)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Phil. 2:5-11)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2Co 5:21)


I mentioned to a friend the other day that I have so many things floating around in my head about which to post, that I end up not posting because I don’t have time for everything. Silliness!

So here are some miscellaneous thoughts, mostly Advent focused (thanks, Tracy, for prompting me to get some of these thoughts down… there’ll be some familiarity for you here):

I’ve gotten almost no Christmas decorating done yet, which is unusual for me by this time. But, my Christmas boxes are in the attic (where I don’t venture) and my man has been very busy with work (thankfully!). I’m hoping he’ll bring them down tonight. I’ve been working on getting the house cleaner. Some people are motivated to clean by Spring… I’m motivated by Christmas! Can’t stand the thought of decorating dirt and clutter. πŸ™‚ I have a spot all cleared out for the tree and hope we can get one this weekend.

Being still in anticipation… something I think He’s working on teaching me. The calm and overflowing joy instead of the frantic doing. I want my heart and mind to be more aware of Him and less focused on the going, the glitter, and the getting.

The Christmas season brings so many memories to me, not only of family (precious!), but also of dear friends that, in my school years, I would often only see during school breaks. Sweet memories.

I’m hoping to start our Jesse tree tomorrow; that’s something I can start without the Christmas boxes, so I’ve no excuse. πŸ™‚ And I’m so looking forward to our quiet times of worship aided by the reminder of the advent wreath.

We had a neat time over Thanksgiving with the families with which we usually celebrated Thanksgiving when Eric and I were growing up. Our “fake family,” as Beka lovingly refers to them, are dear to us, and we enjoyed celebrating with them again (with many more than there used to be!).

I have lots of Gifts for which I’ve noted my Gratitude mentally that I need to get written down or posted.

Sometimes when I’ve been away from blogging, I need a misc. post like this to get me back in the saddle without feeling like I have to catch up chronologically. Thanks for bearing with me. πŸ™‚


I have at last uploaded some pictures from December to my Picasa albums. Click on the slideshows to see them individually, etc.

The Byrd Visit:

The Bloom Visit – did I even mention this?!? It was such a treat to have John and Ruth in town for a couple days! We ate together and played Rage at the chapel on Saturday night Dec. 20th, then on Sunday John shared about Immanuel Mission as well as sharing a very challenging and encouraging message about being a Refresher. They joined us for lunch on Sunday and visited some more before heading in to St. Louis. We were so blessed to have them with us – they have been such an important part of our lives over the years, and they are refreshing people!

Christmas Day:

And New Year’s Eve at Believers Bible Chapel:

More Imperfection

And isn’t it beautiful?!

I made another step of progress in my It-doesn’t-have-to-be-perfect-to-be-beautiful journey. And in my the-whole-point-of-Christmas-is-a-Person-not-my-imperfect-decorations journey.

See, despite our good intentions, we didn’t buy candles for our Advent wreath before Advent started last Sunday. The only places “locally” (read: 30 minutes away) where we can buy official Advent candles just don’t happen to be open when we can get ourselves there. So today, I was out doing Christmas shopping for neat stuff that I really want to tell you about but can’t because certain people for whom I was shopping sometimes read this blog. Thank your lucky stars I just took the word “when” out of that last sentence, because it was headed towards being a record-breaking run-on. Anyway, I made an imperfect-but-beautiful decision to buy three blue tapers and one red taper instead of three blues and one rose/pink (as “called for” by tradition).

So tonight, as we began the second week of Advent, when we focus on Peace, we had an Advent Wreath with candles to light. And it was lovely. Even though our Christ candle (the one in the middle) is awfully short. I repeat, it was lovely, and we had a wonderful time reading, talking, and singing about the peace we have through our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Jesse Tree

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11.1&2

The advent season has begun! Christmas music started playing in our home yesterday, we had our first advent devotional last night (sans the advent wreath, which has yet to be put together). And hopefully, I’ll manage get to some Christmas decorations in my unpacking and sorting today.

At lunch, the kids and I started our Jesse Tree. This is the second year for us to use this particular focusing tool. Last year, we made a big tree out of corrugated plastic and made our own ornaments. Sounds neat, doesn’t it? Except that we only got through about 16 of the 25+ lessons we intended to do!

This year, still being deeply in the work of moving, I am committed to finding simple ways to celebrate Advent/Christmas. I will settle for something that is not so fancy/perfect as I might like – because the point is to focus on our Lord’s coming, not to have a perfect method for doing so!

So, in contemplating what to do for our Jesse Tree this year (I don’t want to use the huge tree we used last year), the focus was on what will be simple/quick and help us train our thoughts and minds properly. After deliberating for while, I’ve decided that we won’t even have an actual tree to put our Jesse Tree ornaments this year. We’re going to use one of our glass back doors, and simply form a tree as we tape the ornaments to the glass.

And the ornaments? Instead of making our own, I printed out the ornaments from Faith Magazine that I found in my googling. I printed them in color, two pages on each sheet of cardstock because I wanted them to be smaller. I started to cut them all out, but realized that it was not truly needed for them all to be cut out today, so I rough cut the others enough that I could number them. I’ll cut them out as we go, or sometime when I need to sit down and rest for a while.

Guess what? I don’t think the forbidden fruit was an apple! I’m partial to Answers in Genesis’ illustration of it that looks more like a luscious purple hand-grenade – so apt. And I don’t think the ark was a round little thing that would never float. But the details of the symbols aren’t as important to me this year as they used to be.

The process of figuring out what our Jesse Tree plan is this year has been another reminder of the truth that these traditions are tools. They are not our masters, they simply have the potential to aid us as we focus on the true reason for the Christmas season. May you be blessed as you focus on Jesus, Creator of the Universe, born to die that we might live!

Anticipating Advent

For the last couple of years, our family has been making use of some of the Advent traditions to help us focus on the true meaning of the Christmas season.  Although I’m generally committed to waiting until after Thanksgiving (which is one of my favorite holidays!) to let my Advent/Christmas juices start flowing, the guys at The Rabbit Room have gotten me off to an early start.  This post about Living Between Two Advents is the kickoff for a “Virtual Advent Wreath” series of weekly posts they’re going to be having.  I’m really looking forward to it!

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