Happy Friday, y’all! As we zoom into Christmas weekend, we run into that perfect storm of hope mixed with hype. Looking forward to time with family and friends highlighted by the glow of Christmas lights and the fragrance of mulled cider. At the same time, tamping down those dreaded expectations of yourself or others that steal our peace. As those expectations are again put in check, the missing of those we won’t see this Christmas rises to the surface. Maybe not for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a crazy ride at Christmastime.
Fortunately, woven through all of that is the moment-by-moment epiphany when Jesus breaks through with glimpses of who he is and what he has done for us. That Jesus turns sorrow to joy and calms that stormy sea of thought and memory. Hallelujah!
This week, there are so many favorite finds…but I will keep my list to five. We all have baking to do…and visits to make, and for some, a workday to wrap up before Christmas weekend. Hope your joy is undisturbed and the memories are sweet.
1) Christmas Commercials – For those who don’t have cable or network TV, you miss the Christmas commercials. Check them out on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites – the top 3 are all from the UK. My personal favorite this past year was the #HeathrowBears commercials – this one, in particular and then this one. What are some of your favorite Christmas commercials (please share in Comments)?
2) Uncommon Generosity – Have you noticed that people actually look at each other in this Christmas season? Smiles of knowing – searching out that special gift or trying to sort out what favorites to cook and buy food accordingly. I find people to be kinder this time of year – both in charitable giving and in the day-to-day just deferring to others. When I was walking with neighbors earlier this week, a box, giftbag and card were posted outside a house, left with the garbage pickup one day, and another beside the recycling the next. So kind to remember, in very tangible ways, people who serve in our community. Also, I had the experience of helping friends move on one of busiest weekends of the Christmas season. Friends and coworkers showed up to help – all smiles and sweet attitudes.
Then there are those lovely people who make Christmas cookies and share plates of them with their neighbors – and their mom and dad.
I’m finding that often what we look for we see. Also blessed this week by other reminders of generosity: a quote from a Writer Kahlil Gibran and a thrift shop t-shirt front (printed with Philippians 2:3-4).
3) Star Wars – the Last Jedi – I LOVED it. The details. The humor. The tears. The fight scenes. It was so well-done. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
I’m trying to hold loosely to Christmas traditions these days, but going to the movies as a family has been a long-time tradition for us. Of late, it’s been the Star Wars movies. This year it was all the guys and me. Our girls stayed home with the babies, and we missed them. It was a great time though watching this film, my favorite guys and me. A very special memory made.
[I’m ready to babysit for the kiddos, so you two couples can have a date night to see it together.]
[Spoilers in articles below so don’t read if you haven’t seen it.]
4) Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff – If you like the Starbucks lemon loaf, then you will love the “better than Starbucks” recipe that Erin of Delightful E Made posted at Lil Luna. I made this recipe this week and it was a-mazing!!! A friend of mine had a birthday this week and gave lemon cake as a favorite of hers – she LOVED this cake. It would stick around, just letting you know. Read the comments of the piece above for others’ views on it.Photo Credit: Lil Luna
5) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – Nathan just posted his latest this morning. It is the theme from the Netflix series The Punisher and it is gorgeous. I won’t be watching the series because it is very much about punishing people who do bad things so there is a lot of blood and very big guns involved. If you have watched it, or if not, you will enjoy this beautiful piece.
That’s it for me. Hope your Christmas weekend is full of joy, and when it’s not, may you experience deep comfort. Much love.
A Quote from this week: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.” – Jack Kornfield
It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!
1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.
2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity
3) Together at Christmas – When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.
At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.
Beyond that sweetness?
Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.
Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.
Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.
4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior. What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.
Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.
The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.
5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:
Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).
You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence. Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?
On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset
“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
― Eric Sevareid
“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke
“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily
“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree