Glimmer, don’t Gripe

christmas lights

christmas lights (Photo credit: harold.lloyd)

While we dream of a White Christmas, children in a dusty street dream of shoes to wear

While we stuff the turkey and then our bellies, many are digging through garbage for dinner

While we share enchanted kisses under the mistletoe, someone somewhere is suffering violence at the hands of a loved one

As we carefully wrap gifts in shiny paper a laid off dad unwraps an envelope containing a bill he can’t pay

As we go caroling and attend plays and parties, the old man down the street cries tears of loneliness, feeling abandoned

While we fill our spare bedrooms and pull out couches with family and friends, a single mom and her children sleep in the street

And as we deck the halls and our homes with sparkling lights, many are searching for just a glimmer of hope

I write all this, not to upset anyone, or make anyone feel guilty for enjoying your Christmas and family.  ENJOY your family, really take the time to enjoy each and every one of them!  Look into their eyes when they are speaking, pay attention and show your love abundantly.  If you are among the blessed, be thankful for your blessings and don’t you dare complain!

Be the glimmer of hope for someone, whether you think they deserve your attention or not.  After all, when we think about the true meaning of Christmas, isn’t it about a gift of love we didn’t deserve?  Don’t let anyone on your street be hungry, hopeless or lonely this Christmas season.  If we all do that, think of what we would accomplish!

Oh Christmas tree, MY Christmas tree

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

This Christmas is a first of sorts for my husband and I.  December 25, 2013 will be our first Christmas as empty nesters.

Don’t worry; this post isn’t going to be a sappy one lamenting a dismally quiet household and no one to wake up with us on Christmas morning.  Although we are disappointed that our eldest can’t make it home this year with our only grandchild, we will have our youngest and her husband here for the holidays.

With all of the ornaments laid out on the kitchen table this year, I made a decision.  I was going to split them and ship them!  I painstakingly and with absolute fairness, separated them into two large flat rate postal boxes.  I wrapped them using bubble wrap and tissue paper and one Christmas dish towel (a little extra). One of the boxes is on it’s way to Louisiana while the other heads for Texas.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I decided I had a couple of choices.  I could hoard them all and continue to have the same old tree year after year, or I could send them each a little piece of home, while also helping these young couples build up their Christmas decoration stock.  Why keep them until I’m old and grey? (wait, I’m already grey without color every six weeks) – anyway, I figured I would let them enjoy them and have memories of home hanging from their trees.

What was in it for me?  To be honest, as I packed all the cute, kiddie looking ornaments, I was dreaming of a tree similar to one I’d encountered on Pinterest, with a woodland animal theme.  You might think I’m not sentimental enough and that I should be pining for the ornament that a 6yr old made in art class.  Well, I did keep a couple that were made by their own little hands.  However, not for my tree; just for the memory.  I much prefer the memories of spending time with them and our conversations and laughter to things.

I marched right to Kohl’s the following day where I had already eyed the ornaments I liked and filled up a basket with owls, foxes, cardinals and others that would match my theme; Then it was off to Target and then Family Christian Store for more tree decorations.  I turned on Christmas carols, turned down the A.C. (yes, good old south FL weather) and began.  A couple hours later I stepped back, pleased and beamed when my husband said it was beautiful.

As families grow and change, a new tradition or a new twist on an old tradition helps to move us forward.  I have beautiful memories with my children decorating and them picking out an ornament every year, but they don’t live here anymore and this tree makes me happy.  It let me pour out some creativity and refresh an old theme.  We can’t dwell on the past and the way things were.  Things and people change and we can’t allow ourselves to get bogged down in the yesterdays and how things used to be.  We grow, people pass on, family members move, more members are added.

If you find yourself in a new season in life, make a change, do something different, something new and enjoy it!

I am reminded of a similar post called “Gone are the matching bows” that I wrote at a different time in my life last year about Christmas trees and letting them be for the children; you can click on the link below to check it out.

https://longwalksanddarkchocolate.com/2012/11/28/gone-are-the-matching-bows/

 

SONY DSC

 

Christmas threads

SONY DSC“Ma’am, may I ask you a question?”  The persistent young lady clutching a tube of sea salt, something or other, actually matched my steps for a few seconds as I hurried past the mid-mall vendor.  After my “no thank you” didn’t faze her tenacity, I tried “No thank, you I’m not interested” in a more serious tone.  When that also failed to weaken her resolve, I decided to just pick up my pace and ignore her.  She was intent on making a sale but I was determined to escape.

Moments later, I settled into a seat with my lunch to take a break and re-group.  I found myself feeling angry.  Why should my leisurely trip to the mall be interrupted by an incident that left me feeling like I’d done something wrong?  I don’t like to use my firm tone of voice and I certainly don’t like to ignore people.  My day begins with a prayer to show love to others, not return rudeness.

Determined not to lose my joy, I let it go, adamant in my desire to shine a little brighter for the remainder of my day.

I begin to recall memories of Christmas shopping in this very mall with my mom, my husband, my mother in law, my girls and many friends.  Some of them are no longer here, but I can meander through the memories and find the moments and share them again.

The heart of Christmas for me lies in my Christian roots; the reality of the gift given to the entire world on that Christmas long ago.  When we celebrate Christmas, it’s based on that love and although December can be hurried and harried, that is where the focus must remain.

As I began to look around a few stops later, I noticed the exuberant face of a little boy as he carefully selected ornaments with his mother.  She spoke softly to him, love and tenderness in her voice.  They were both young and creating “moments” together to be cherished for years to come.

I rounded the aisle and saw what appeared to be a family, according to their similarities in look.  There was an elderly woman in a wheelchair, being pushed by a younger woman, who could have been her daughter.  I paused to let them pass and they smiled in thanks.  Directly in pursuit of them was a younger woman, who was very noticeably pregnant.  I wondered if I was perhaps looking at four generations (one still in the oven).  They made me smile as they laughed and joked about who was “bringing up the rear”, obviously enjoying each other immensely.

We have to remember during all the hustle and bustle of the season to cherish one another and to savor moments and make memories.  Every moment, every event, be it large or small is like a thread, which when woven together with love, create a beautiful garment of memories, that can be thrown around our shoulders to embrace and comfort us time and time again.

And that reminds me of the comforting love of the Father – Have a blessed day and cherish those moments!

Your cousin’s sister’s husbands nephew

Cherish your human connections, your relationships with friends and family- Barbara Bush

Family Reunion

Family Reunion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Granny, how am I related to him?  “Well, let’s see, you’re double kin because between Pop and me, you’re cousins on both sides”.  This was my life story, growing up in a small town.  It’s a wonder I ever found anyone to “like”.  Thankfully, by the time I was in for serious dating, we had moved away and there was a smorgasbord of available young men who I had no familial ties to whatsoever.

I originally had mixed emotions this past weekend about attending a family reunion.  When I was younger, it had seemed that being related was more trouble than anything.  The fact that I am a notorious introvert probably contributed to my angst.  The plus was that my husband would be with me and he is the opposite and usually fills in the gaps for me.

In the past, the mere thought of chatting it up all day with a large gathering of people would have sent me hunting an excuse to retreat.  This time though, I made reservations as soon as I heard about it and for the most part, looked forward to it.  Do we crave this type of interaction more as we age because we’re afraid of being old and lonely so we are trying to add to our list of go to friends?  Or, are my forties just going to continue being full of surprises for me?

We arrived at the beautiful park where it was being held and I was anxious to hear some of the almost forgotten stories, figure out who was who and get reacquainted with old friends and family. I also wanted to get a look at that family tree and try to figure out this double-kin stuff for once and for all.

I enjoyed watching the children running around, sounds of their laughter mixed with the lighthearted banter of the adults.  I took pleasure in the grandparents proudly displaying pictures of the most brilliant grandchild ever to be born and some of the “elder” cousins harmlessly arguing in the same way they probably did in their younger days.  The food was plentiful and delicious and I hoarded some of my Aunts delectable fudge for later in the hotel room.

I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed myself as in the past I ran from this type of event.  But on this beautiful Saturday, I found myself hoping for another one next year, making silent vows to see some of these people more often.  Some are old and we don’t know how much time we have left, to hear their stories and learn about them as well as from them.  So I ask myself again….Have I really changed that much or do I now just finally possess the wisdom to appreciate them more?

Whatever the answer, I am blessed to have so many wonderful and interesting relatives.  There are a lot of similarities and also some differences, but when all is said and done, we are blood.  We should get to know each other, be there for each other and love one another regardless of differences.

Oh no you didn’t!

Different speed limits apply for day and night...

Patience is the companion of wisdom.”  Saint Augustine

This may sound very strange, but today my patience has been sorely tested by people with no patience.  You may say it was to be expected and is somewhat deserved.   After all, it was my decision to do some shopping and fight traffic the day after Christmas.

It seems that today, the spirit of Christmas was greatly lacking by some of the road warriors I shared the pavement with today.  I heard more than my share of horns honking and saw incredulous and hateful looks exchanged.

To finish out the day, I was driving in the direction of home where there is a slow zone for a few miles.  I was obeying the speed limit and the driver behind me was risking life and limb trying to find a way to get around me without colliding with oncoming traffic.  He finally passed about the time the speed limit returned to normal, and when I sped up to appropriate number, I found myself stuck behind him going less than the speed limit, for the most part.  Maybe he just had a thing for being the first car in line?  I am not going to lie, it took all I had not to put all of my 420hp to use and blow right past him, but then I would have been exhibiting the same behavior as he.

We ended up arriving at the same place at the same time which was no surprise to me.  I am not without fault as far as pushing the speed limit goes and I can certainly admit to many times when I was in a hurry and pushed my luck.  However, watching people today, I was once again amazed at how ridiculous full grown men and women can behave over a parking spot or a car that doesn’t have its wheels rolling within 1 second of the light turning green, or how some will risk their own and others safety due to short tempers.

I wonder if all of the honkers and passers and eye rollers behave that way all of the time or if they are just human like me, and struggle worse on some days than others?

We need to plan ahead to alleviate the stress of running late, realize that our fellow humans aren’t holding us up intentionally; there isn’t some premeditated, devious plan to keep us from getting to our destination.  And finally, sometimes you just need to stop and breathe.

Wrapping up the 25th of December

Merry Christmas!

For most families, by this time on December 25th, there isn’t anything left under your tree, unless it’s that straggler present for someone who didn’t show up.  Your outdoor trash can is full of boxes and wrappings and the bags and bows that got through the unwrapping chaos unscathed, you have stashed to use again next year.

The kitchen is clean and all the leftovers have either been shipped home with family and friends or they are nestled tightly against each other in a refrigerator full of them.  If you are like my family, you won’t have to cook for at least a couple of days, but you will end up doing it anyway because you will be tired of turkey.

Most likely you are full and lazing around on the couch wishing you wouldn’t have had seconds (or thirds), or that piece of pumpkin pie.  Some of us are sitting around chatting, reminiscing, and making more plans to get together more often.  For others, a long drive home looms ahead.

Hopefully wherever you are and whatever you are doing you are in possession of some new, warm happy memories.  We need to remember if we got only one gift or have a full belly tonight, we are more fortunate than a large percentage of the world.  Count your blessings; don’t go to bed mad, lavish forgiveness and mercy, and love, love, love.    Peace and Blessings!

Christmas treats

Christmas treats

Baking for dummies

Making thumbprint cookies

Making thumbprint cookies

I hate when I’m browsing for recipes and I see a picture of something that looks perfectly scrumptious, only to click on the actual recipe to find out it is a mile long with complicated instructions.  What part of “easy recipes” does Google not understand?  Then they try to sabotage you with directions like “blend to desired consistency”.  What exactly is that supposed to mean?  My desire is that I actually end up with something edible.

In my late forties and just now actually beginning to enjoy baking, I don’t want to blast my confidence by attempting something that takes 2 hours just to assemble; it’s just not going to happen.  Well, maybe someday but definitely not today (or this year, I’m guessing).

I’m having one other slight problem with baking.  I can no longer hold some of the recipes (think small print on backs of semi-sweet morsel bags) far enough away to actually read them.  When I get into the middle of making something, I’m too stubborn to go find my “magnifier glasses” so it’s quite fortunate that I’m not mistaking a TSP for a TBSP which I’m finding really can make a difference.

I find that I am coveting a lot of gadgets and pans and kitchen items that I only bought in the past for the Suzie Homemaker’s on my gift list.  Thankfully for me, my mother in law is delighted with my new found love (or maybe like would be a better word at this point)  for baking and has some of these items that she is blessing me with!  I plan to hit my hubby up soon for some of the pricier things but the plan is to wait until after Christmas and until he is well over his despair of what it cost him.

Well, back to browsing for something else tasty.  Maybe if I search under “really super easy” or “baking for dummies”  I’ll have better luck?  I do think I will attempt my mother’s red velvet cake.  I’ve done it once before and it was a hit!

Happy baking and MERRY CHRISTMAS Eve to you all!

A recipe for memories

cookies

Hershey’s thumbprint cookies; photo by Morgan

Mm mm, I love the smell of cookies baking at Christmas time (well actually at any time), but there is something special about it around the holidays.  My kids always wanted to bake sugar cookies and decorate them.  Thank God when they were younger I had their granny to come over and help me.

We would put my kids and whatever nieces or nephews were here all around a table in the middle of the kitchen and give them icing and sprinkles and they would create their little masterpieces.  By the time they had licked their little fingers multiple times and piled icing on an inch thick, I never could make myself actually eat one, but they had fun and that was what it was all about.  Oh, the mess!   We’d have cookie batter and flour, and icing from one end of the kitchen to the other.  Yes, there might have been a mess, but they were making sweet memories in the process.

Toll house cookies

Toll house cookies; photo by Morgan

Their favorites were the Christmas tree and stocking shapes, so we had the occasional battle over who got the next one.  They would do their very best and wait for us tell them how beautiful their contribution had turned out.  You had to be careful and dole out the praise very equally or one of them would notice and call you out on it.  If I can be totally honest, at the time, I was usually glad when they finished and got bored with the whole baking scene and went back outside to play (this was because at the time I hadn’t learned that they would only be young a short time and the house being clean really wasn’t that important).  Now I am so thankful for those precious memories and that we took the time to let them make them.

Today we did the annual cookie baking, but it was an older crew.  Our youngest member is now 16.  We worked together and got several batches done in no time at all.  I enjoyed being in the kitchen together; the laughter and joking with one another.  Well, mostly it was Kim (a family friend) and I laughing at my daughter, Morgan and her granny.  They are hysterical because they are so much alike.  It was different and some of the players were missing, but it was still enjoyable.

We made Hershey’s kiss thumbprints, pumpkin spice cookies, and toll house cookies with pecans.  I tasted all of them and now I’m sitting here in a post-sugar haze, wishing I hadn’t.  I’m sitting here reflecting on the times I made light of things or rushed through them to satisfy my selfish, control-freak personality.  Gratefully and by the grace of God, I’m once again thankful for age and wisdom and the ability to realize how precious every moment spent with loved ones really is.

Won’t you do the same?  Stop and consider time and its relentless passing and prioritize carefully.  You won’t regret it, not for one moment.

Let love abound

Some of my Christmas ornaments

Some of my Christmas ornaments

I’m not sure why I always look forward to Christmas so much, but I do.  As the calendar rolls forward and the day draws closer, I want to put time on hold and continue to bask in the season.  I love the decorations, the scent of sumptuous feasts cooking, the Christmas plays featuring children, the get-togethers, the gift giving and the way that people tend to come together and lend a hand to one another.

I know there are many out there who don’t share my opinion of Christmas.  There are those who are grieving because they are missing someone, those who are hungry and can’t pay their bills, much less think about gifts, some are filled with bitterness and can’t find it in their hearts to celebrate much of anything.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could collectively reach out and hug them all, somehow make the season brighter for them?  That’s not possible, but we can do something, even if it’s something small.  It’s up to each and everyone of us to find out what that is; how we can help.

For me, Christmas has always been about the birth of our Savior and all that this event represents; the love, joy, hope and peace that seems to be shared more greatly among all during this season.  We tend to be more generous, show more compassion and make more time for one another.

I pray that this won’t change just because the season passes.  I pray that goodwill not only continues to abound, but that it increases,  that we will persist in our efforts to “pay it forward” and that our lives will manifest love, patience, mercy, and grace.

Ribbons and bows or bags and tags

Pile of gorgeous gifts

I’m sitting here looking at all of the wrapped gifts under my beautiful tree.  My daughter was wrapping last night and complained about how many she had to do.  I said, “Use bags”.  But, she prefers having to actually rip open the paper and work a little for what’s inside, so she assumes others do as well.  I think I agree with her on that one.  The pros to using the bag are of course, convenience and they are easier to recycle.  They are also very cute and sport flashy graphics and tags.  However, some people consider the use of bags the “lazy” way and if you don’t tape them up well, they are super easy to peek into if you are prone to that sneaky habit.

I am not ashamed, (although maybe I should be) to say that as a child I always snooped and it was very time consuming as well as cumbersome having to actually unwrap and re-wrap.  Unfortunately, no one used bags back then; they were all wrapped. I had to be not only swift, but good at it too; those gifts had to look just as pretty when I was finished with them.   I considered myself very fortunate the day I discovered my mother’s “list of gifts by child”, the mother lode, in her beside dresser drawer.  It’s probably no surprise that this was forbidden territory as well.

My kids always liked to be surprised (as far as I know anyway) as did my brother and sister back in the day.  I’ve changed as well.  I’m not even tempted to peek or try to discover what’s under the tree for me anymore.  I’m not sure why it was so important back then for me to know what was there; maybe it was the attention I got; or maybe I was just a devious little sneak.  Who knows? Now that I understand, honor and appreciate the true meaning of Christmas so much more, it just wouldn’t seem right to deprive someone of the joy over my surprise at their choice of gift for me.

Happy wrapping or bagging or whatever your preference!  I’ll be doing some of both.

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