Sunday, December 30, 2012

the year that was

The sidebar girls have been visiting this week so we've been busy in a very fun way! Above are some of the pictures that remind me of events this past year ... and a new favorite quote from the year came from the girl who is four. I was bemoaning my worn out pjs that have a sheep pattern and asked what she thought of them. "I don't like them. There are too many sheep and no shepherd!" Something I hadn't even thought of, of course!

See Mary's Little Red House for other Monday Mosaics.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Look for art

Lydia Grace set a beautiful tea table for some of us last week. There were many details to take note of and it was all so graceful and beautiful. A wonderful setting for good food and good conversation.

Another friend transformed her den into a beautiful twinkly-lit place to dine by the fireplace. We enjoyed coffee in an atmosphere that beat any cozy coffeehouse.

It's all made me think about how we are all artists in one way or another. After all, we were made to be creative.

So I'm trying to look around more and appreciate beauty and creativity in its many forms and expressions ... whether it's the way we paint a picture, mow the lawn, organize a cabinet, or set a table!

Even if not immediately obvious, it's there to find if I just look!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

the source of joy

The candles and beautiful lights we see at Christmas remind me that the baby in the 
manger came to bring us light and truth and salvation. I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
 A solid hope and the source of my joy.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

white gifts

It seems a lot of work to wrap canned goods and packaged foods in white tissue paper, doesn't it? But that is one of my favorite childhood Christmas memories. My dad, a minister, made a large cross, painted it white, and placed at in the front of the church.

During the Christmas season we had a special service where, with the lights dimmed and carols softly playing, we would walk one by one or family by family to the front and place our white-wrapped gifts of food under the cross. We didn't rush, but took our time. What a wonderful expression of giving back, and how beautiful it looked up front with all those pristinely white packages nestled under and around the cross.

The next day the food was taken, as best I remember, to a local orphanage where our church visited regularly to play with the children or bring gifts.

Our present day church makes breakfast on the street for the homeless and brings items for a food pantry for single moms and hurting families ... they are collected in an area of the narthex waiting to be transported away. But somehow the process of wrapping in white, and walking to place the gifts at the cross, was a visual lesson that impacted me as a child. It's a precious memory. I'm grateful to have found this picture of my dad by the cross where I can catch a glimpse of some of the white gifts and remember ... 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012


 I read that on a morning TV show this week someone said that religion
mucks up Christmas and makes it so stressful ...
it would be better if you could just remove the religious aspect (loosely quoted).
 Does that make sense?
Seems to me the religious "aspect" is what the party and decorations are all about. 
Otherwise what would we be celebrating? 
I've been sad this weekend for several reasons. 
I'm grieving for the parents who lost their sweet children, 
but I'm also thinking about the "Lost Boys" in our society and how it is we lose them.
So I am quietly continuing to prepare for next week, 
for more than ever we need to remember 
the Light that came to us so long ago on that early Christmas morning.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

just the girls

 Sometimes dinner with "just the girls" is well, ahem, you know, kind of nice for a change. And so gathered a small group of women I meet with once a month. Our husbands are all in leadership at our church so we have a lot in common.
It was a simple fare. I made white bean chili in the crock part early in the day, 
set the table, and went on with what else I had to do that day.
The others brought salad, rolls, and dessert. Just as easy and good as can be. Before they came I put lots of ice and water in the glasses, so didn't have to mess with that after they arrived. I put grated cheese, taco chips, and sour cream in bowls. And sat down to read as I waited for them. That's my style.
I found an old garland of berries that I wound around my favorite canning jars filled with votives.           
  Simple, comfortable with a touch of elegance.

Earlier in the day I took a break to do a mirror image ... still enjoying our new "on trial but maybe staying" dining room. The antique mirror has been handed down in our family through many generations.

Candlelight, no matter how simple, seems to draw us in. We stayed around the table for hours, laughing, talking, sharing concerns, and lastly, praying together.  A good time, and the clean-up was easy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

the streets of long ago

On a chilly midwestern day, I sit on a bench in my old home town and remember. It is a special treat to be here with my younger sister. We haven't been in this place together since the day we moved away, so many years ago--or was it yesterday--back when we were bubbly teenagers. We park the car and walk. Walk the half block from our house--the house our dad built--to school, except our grade school has morphed into two large homes.
Then we walk to church--a full block--and remember walking our dad home from his church office for lunch. The block seems strangely shorter than we remember. We walk around the block--it happens to be just two days after Halloween, which is a time we remember so much about our neighborhood. Those nights ... tearing up and down the streets with our pillow cases slung over our shoulders, filled with huge (weren't they? or were we just small) candybars and bubblegum. We remember which houses gave the best stuff, where we babysat, where our school friends had lived. Some houses seem totally unchanged by the years, others have been torn down and replaced by huge homes squished on too-small lots. Viewing our charming small town--a bedroom community to Chicago--as adults, we are impressed with what a wonderful place it was to grow up.

Then we walk uptown and have a treat from the bakery which is totally unchanged from when we were kids. We stand on the street trying to figure out which shop had been our beloved "dime store" when a woman stops and points to it. "That's where it was, and that's where Schluter Drug was--remember?" She too had moved away but moved back years later, and was eager to talk about the town we love and how it was when we were kids. We try to figure out if we had been in high school together and I finally ask her how old she is.

We are in town for the 100th anniversary of the church where we grew up, where our dad was the minister for 20 years. It is an amazing experience to see our childhood friends, now looking like older (yes much older) versions of their parents––as we remember their parents. Once again we find ourselves asking each others' ages, trying to figure out how things were when we were kids. For when you are young, age difference is big. So like the friendly woman uptown on the street, we laugh as we realize only at such an event would you ask someone's age or the year they were born.

My older sister lives near there and joins us at the event. An old friend of hers comes up to her and asks, "Weren't we friends? Like really good friends?" My sister agrees, digging deep for the memory. Such funny conversations take place as we gather up and make sense of old memories.

So for a few brief hours, childhood friends and places we remember as clearly as if it were today, become very real again. It is an amazing experience, sort of in the "top ten" of life events. But then, like the Cinderella story, it is time to go back to real life, but going back blessed with new memories of the old memories. It's kind of complex as I process it all. But I'm very grateful for the bringing forth of the old, as a reminder of people, a time of life and a place, that had much to do with making me the person I am today. Yes, that sums it up the best. I came away very grateful.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

your slip is showing

Little One (she's getting tall!) and my Ginny doll made friends the other day. Anyone remember them? They came before Jill dolls who came before Barbies. Between my sister and I we have two dolls--one somehow arrived from the 80s--maybe it was my niece's--and then...
...this "real deal" who looks like she could use a trip to the doll hospital. What amazed me again was the array of clothes my grandmother, and later my older sister, crafted for our Ginnies.
My grandma (this is the grandma that got down on the floor and played with us, and kept a toy box at her house -- and we always wondered if she didn't also play with them when we weren't there!) made these dresses that faintly remind me of the style of dress we must have worn as little girls. The orange and white in the lower left corner was made in a 60s style by my older sister. See the bathrobe? And the full slips? I had forgotten that a "full slip" years ago meant that it made your dress full or "stick out."
Little One loved the dresser drawer with the shoe and comb stash and the way the
 clothes hung on hangers in the "closet."   I loved the raincoat.
"Oops! Your slip is showing!" That was one I had to explain to Little One, who probably
doesn't own a slip. We had a good time together--she playing with something new 
and intriguing, and I, remembering a time long ago.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

she's here

 I did find an angel at the little resale shop around the corner where individuals tenderly 
care for their tiny booths of winsome items. In fact I found three, but this young 
woman angel drew me in with her mandolin and silver. I may decrease her abundance of 
red ribbons and shorten her dress a bit but I am growing to love her. 
It looks like she might have just been to the hair salon.
The other night at our young woman's encouragement group we decorated plain candles
 by gluing tissue paper on them and then ... embellishing them. 
I may have gone too far on the embellishments, but it sure was fun to do.

Monday, December 03, 2012

back fence chatter

It's such a warm day here, I could envision myself talking over the back fence with my neighbor. But she's inside, so I brought a tea tray up to my closet office as I work on a deadline this afternoon, knowing I need a whole pot on this long day. I think about this "go to" teapot of mine that I'm using with a favorite Christmas mug and tray brought home from England. The teapot is so everyday, a 50-cent find years ago in an antique shop. It warms me with pleasant memories of that mountain weekend with friends, just as it warms me with comfort and yes, coziness, (my new favorite word) as the steam from the tea presses on my face. The old pot is my favorite because it is so ... unassuming and I love its shape. And for 50 cents, a drip free spout.

So if I was chatting over the fence I might give a few "observations."  It could go like this:

1. I don't mind this extended warm weather, but I hope it doesn't trick the trees into blooming even before they're finished shedding their dead autumn leaves.

2. I tried so very hard to find a box of Christmas cards that actually used the word "Christmas." Everything looks 3-D and a bit weird to me, even the one or two packs that were truly Christmas cards.

3. And then I'd ask when did all the glitter and glitz take over the ornament aisle? I'm trying to find a pretty ornament to exchange at a party and I went through the shelves of a favorite crafty chain store and the only one that appealed to me was a cute pair of boots ornament. Which didn't really look like Christmas. Personally I'm not crazy--for myself--about all that glitter and powdery stuff shedding in my living room or onto my tree or into my still-recovering-from-bronchitis lungs.

4. And then we need a new angel for the top of our tree. Our angel has fallen to a irreparable state, How hard can it be to find a quaint, sweet replacement? Apparently not easy. The only one or two angels I have found are quite over-done, over-sized and holding electric (bright white LED of course) candles, one in each hand. Again not my taste, or maybe I don't want to mess with the white wires that attach to her candles. I'll head over to a consignment shop, but for now a glittery (succumbed, yes) silver poinsettia stands up in her place.

Of course I feel badly now. My observations sound a bit like complaints about the trivial trappings (of a holiday gone so off course over the years). I've got my focus back. Gratefulness. I might add to my neighbor before we say good-bye, that I love rereading Marjorie  Holmes' Two From Galilee at this time of year. A novel, yes, but it has helped me to grasp the suffering and challenges Mary and her fiancee endured to bring the Savior into the world. Something to ponder.

Oops, the pot is finished and it's time to get back to my real work.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

snug as a bug

Hot cocoa on a cold day; a sip of delectable tea while sitting around a table with good friends; candles in the window; a dog snoring at my feet; a cuddly baby; a soft, warm blanket; nothing too big; somewhat old and comfortable ... these words and more conjure up "coziness" in my mind. We got into the discussion when my mother, surveying the switch in our dining room and living room asked, "Just what is coziness?"

I'm sure she knows, but maybe she never thought about it before. Since so many of you asked about what the "new" and "cozy" living room looks like, I thought I'd tuck a picture of it into a post about coziness. It's a word we often use to describe a place, and when we say the word, a warm feeling comes with it, don't you think? Of course I checked the dictionary and it used words like: "snug, comfortable, and warm," and another set of words I like: "marked by friendly intimacy." That's what we feel when we are in our new room where we read and have conversations.

I place a high value on coziness ... do you? Since pictures, at least for me, speak louder than words, I searched through my photos to come up with some that say "cozy" to me. (An aside: the center photo is of our dear Meshach who went to doggie heaven three years this week.)

We had plenty of "friendly intimacy" last night when the kids were over for the Gardener's birthday. After dinner, since it was "Little Brother's" first view of a Christmas tree (I wish I could have captured the awestruck look in his wide eyes when he first saw it), we hung around in our "small, intimate" room. And it was a bit crowded with the grands playing here and there and us trying to sit and talk. We should have gone to the larger "family" room, but of course we wanted to be by the tree. Next time I'll remember to add more chairs on the edge of the dining room.
I think we all look for coziness especially during the holidays ... 

... possibly in part because we remember the stable where a young teenage mom 
wrapped her baby and laid him in a manger she had filled with straw to make 
it a cozy bed for him. I'm sure the environment was harsher than 
the Christmas cards show, but certainly 
the light and love of Christ filled the place with great warmth.

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