Friday, December 31, 2010

Hallelujah Chorus, Quinhagak, Alaska

This seems a fitting video as we close out this month and year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What's in a Face?

We've just upgraded iPhoto on our computer and are in the process of organizing our photos by people, not just events and dates.  With thousands of faces to sort out, it is a bit of a time consuming effort, but once we get it up and running it should be easy to maintain, and a breeze to find just the right photo.

This morning while I sat for nearly an hour, identifying people who appeared on my computer screen, I found it comical that the program had so much trouble recognizing some folks -- like my husband, my boys, and me!  Lots and lots of pictures of us, but if someone had a hat on, a hood up, a goofy smile,
iPhoto didn't seem to have any idea who we were!  Sometimes it took a stab at naming someone.  Occasionally it was right; more often it made me laugh.  Was my brother with a beard me?  Was my son my sister-in-law?  It kept getting my dad and my father-in-law mixed up.  And people who don't even know each other were given the other's name.

It reminded me of a study that Samuel participated in several years ago at the University of Washington related to face recognition.  It was designed to study how people on the autism spectrum process information.  For all of Samuel's ability to grasp and recall information, face recognition is difficult for him.

I've seen that in myself some, too.  Just the other day I was at Haggen and saw a dear friend out of the corner of my eye.  But she doesn't live in the area, so I couldn't make the face of the woman I saw quite match my friend's face.  I would have passed her by except that she saw me too.  What a happy reunion we had!

I'm realizing how much context has to do with our ability to recognize people's faces.  The computer zooms in on one face out of a crowd, and I flounder. Sometimes I need the setting for clues.

Tom the artist seems to have no trouble remembering a face.  I guess it's just in the way we're wired.

Our computer is wired for data.  It's pulling together information from each of those photos it has already identified and is eventually going to be able to recognize a picture of me, no matter the hairstyle or age.  I've still got 3000 photos to identify; I hope it catches on soon.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Songs of the Redeemed

I've been listening to The Odes Project, a CD I received for Christmas.  It is a recently released collection of songs of the early Christian church -- ancient words translated for our times and set to music.  They draw us to the body of Christ and remind us that we, at this moment in history, are just a dot on the timeline of redemption.

I am a Christ-follower in the beginning of the 21st century, living in a small town in North America.  But I am a part of something so much bigger than that.  My heritage includes the believers who, over the generations, have met to worship Jesus in catacombs and cathedrals, under thatched roofs, in refugee camps, homes, warehouses and storefronts on every continent.  I may not have been present nor experienced the struggles that my brothers and sisters through time have experienced, yet I am one with them.

As believers in Jesus, we are interwoven with people we will meet in Heaven, those described in Revelation as "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.  They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.  And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to or God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb." (7:9,10)

Just maybe, when we get there, we will hear the songs of the redeemed that have echoed through the ages, wherever the Name of Jesus has been lifted up!  I sure hope so!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mrs Ginger and Mr Tom's Taco Soup

We had friends over the other night, and all evening the little girls referred to us as Mrs Ginger and Mr Tom.  On the menu was taco soup that Tom and I had made.  The next morning, the 4-year-old said to her mom, "Mrs Ginger's taco soup was so delicious!"  Besides being delicious, this recipe is also gluten-free.

Mrs Ginger and Mr Tom's Taco Soup

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1 15-oz can black beans
2 15-oz cans pinto beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 pound browned ground beef
taco seasoning (see below)
taco chips
grated cheese
sour cream
shredded lettuce (optional)

Brown ground beef.  Empty the contents of the cans of tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans into a Dutch oven or large kettle.  Add corn and ground beef.  Add the seasoning.  Stir well and cook for an hour or so to allow the flavors to marry.

To serve, you might put the chips and lettuce in the bowl along with the soup and top with grated cheese and/or sour cream.

Taco Seasoning
(This gluten-free seasoning, which I found here, is the secret ingredient in this recipe!  You can, of course, use packaged seasoning, but it will taste better if you take the time to make this one yourself.)
1 Tbsp potato starch
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp minced onion
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Conversations with God

Pastor Steve Schell tells of the moment when he fully surrendered control of his life to the Lord.

God:  Since you're not enjoying living for yourself, why don't you just give me what's left of your life and I'll do with it as I please?

Pastor Steve: I hurt so bad inside that I was actually willing to let go.  I said, "I'll be a quarter in your pocket and you can spend me any way you want."

(You can hear the whole story on Haven Today.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christ Candle

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he wil be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

For you know that it was not with perishable things
such as silver or gold
that you were redeemed from the empty way of life
handed down to you from your forefathers,
but with the precious blood of Christ,
a lamb without blemish or defect.
He was chosen before the creation of the world,
but was revealed in the last times
for your sake.
Through him you believe in God,
who raised him from the dead
and glorified him,
and so your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:18-21

"Look, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!"
John 1:29

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peace on Earth!

The message of the angels was hard to comprehend:
Peace on Earth, good will to men!

The message of the Savior offers sweet release:
Peace I leave with you, my peace!

The message that the church brings to a broken world:
He is our peace -- be healed!

Ginger Kauffman

Wishing you a blessed Christmas,
and His peace!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Away in a Manger

When we were growing up, Dad created yarns for us about Preacher Mohod, a circuit riding preacher.  I wrote this story based on Dad's stories; Tom illustrated it.
     The night was glorious.  Icicles shimmered in the moonlight; the snow crunched beneath the runners of the sleigh.
     "Look at that bright star, Papa!" Becca exclaimed, pointing toward the sky.  She drew her coat tight around her as she sat between her parents on the seat of the sleigh.  "It looks like the star that shone over Bethlehem!"
     Papa smiled.  "Yes, it is bright.  And it seems to be above the church!"
     "I can hardly wait to get to the service, Papa!  I wish we hadn't left so late.  I'm afraid we'll miss part of it."
     "Becca, you know we left as soon as we could."  Papa looked over at Mama, his eyes shining with love.  Mama held baby Esther close.  "Your mama needed us to do the evening chores so she could get the baby ready for the service.  But never mind now.  We're nearly there."
     Mama put an arm around Becca.  "Everything's different since Esther was born, isn't it, my sweet girl?  Babies have a way of changing people's lives!" she laughed.
     As they rounded the bend Becca heard singing as sweet as she had ever heard:  "Hark! the herald angels sing..."  "Oh, hurry, Papa!  They've already started," Becca cried.
     But as they turned into the church yard, Becca's heart sank.  The church was dark!
     Papa pulled the sleigh to a stop, and then Becca saw it.  The Wilson's barn, next to the church, was crowded with people!
     The singing had stopped now.  Becca, Mama and Papa crept quietly to the door of the barn and peered in.  Several lanterns were hanging on posts, offering light to the folks gathered.  Mounds of fresh hay had been strewn around the floor.  The women and children were sitting on the hay while  the men stood behind them.  A horse, a cow, and three sheep were in the stalls and several chickens roosted for the night.  Except for the occasional bleating of sheep, the animals were quiet.
     Papa found a post to lean against.  Becca settled down on a pile of clean hay at the feet of Preacher Mohod, who was standing in the middle of the barn.  He reached out and took Esther so that Mama could sit down beside Becca.  Gently he cradled the baby in his arms.
     "It really wasn't so different from this, you know, when the Savior was born.  A tiny baby, wrapped in cloth, spending his first night in a barn.  His loving parents caring for him, his mother singing him lullabies.  Animals settling down for the night.  His first visitors, shepherds, huddling around to see him, just as you are now."
     Baby Esther cried softly and began to suck on her fist.  Preacher Mohod smiled and placed the baby in her mother's arms.  The he continued.
     "The sweet baby in the manger that night was like any other baby -- he cried, he ate, he slept.  But he was so very different.  When that baby was born, the invisible God showed Himself!  All the fullness of God dwelt in that tiny child!  The Son of God came and lived among us, to show us the way to the Father!
     "Brothers and sisters, do you want to know God?  Do you long to see His face, to reach out and touch Him?  Then look at Jesus.  See Him peacefully sleeping in a crude manger.  Watch Him grow and begin His ministry.  Hear His words, 'He that hath seen me hath see the Father.'  Behold His love as He hangs on the cross to pay the price for our sins.  Rejoice that He is alive again and has ascended into Heaven, where He prays for us!
     "Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  When you've had a good, long look at Jesus, you have seen God Himself!"

Preacher Mohod used the following verses for his text: Colossians 1:15, 2:9; John :4, 14:6,9; Acts 5:29-31; Hebrews 7:25.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Song for Christmas

When Jesus came to Bethlehem,
God's tiny, human Son,
The world wept then, as it weeps now,
Because of what sin's done.

The homeless huddled in the streets.
The poor man begged for bread,
While wicked men made others slaves,
And families mourned their dead.

Then Jesus came, a helpless child,
And wise ones marked His birth.
The angels sang to listening hearts
"Your King has come to earth."

The years have passed, the world still weeps,
But to each listening heart,
The song comes ringing down through time
To promise a new start.

For he who turns from his own way
To make that Babe his King,
Will find the Kingdom in hear heart,
And hope and joy will sing.

The Kingdom starts in lives made new.
Take heart, all weeping men
This hurting world will weep no more
When Jesus comes again.

Joan Husby

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to Wrap a Present

Here's something I found in yesterday's Herald, just in case you have put your kids in charge of wrapping gifts!  Step-by-step instructions for kids on how to wrap a present!

Check it out!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Far From Home at Christmas Time

When I was twenty-eight years old, I found myself five thousand miles from home.  I had left Seattle in September to begin a two-year missionary assignment in Japan.  I had been excited to go, yet quite nervous.  How would I adjust to such a new situation?  Because of the kindness and support of both my fellow workers and Japanese friends it was not as difficult an adjustment as I had anticipated.

But, with Christmas approaching, would I manage so far from home?

My missionary friends and I busied ourselves with Christmas preparations.  An artificial tree was decorated and placed on a table in the corner.  The house was cleaned and cookies baked in preparation for numerous parties with our English classes.  We greeted guests, some who had never been in the home of Americans, and shared the Christmas story as a part of the festivities.  In Japan Christmas is not a national holiday.  It is celebrated commercially, however -- with music and decorations in the department store, gifts given to the children, and store-bought Christmas cakes.

Of course the church relishes the Christmas celebration and takes advantage of the opportunity to share God's love with all they can.   Our small house church was no exception.  We converted a neighborhood art school into a place of worship and presented the gospel through a candlelight Christmas Eve service.  We had a tremendous attendance, even if you don't count the plaster busts that peered down from the shelves around the room.

I found it to be one of my most joyful Christmases.  The scripture that best expressed my heart that Christmas was Psalm 116:12-14: What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?  I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.  I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

The Lord had blessed my own life and was using me in some small measure to touch others.  Miles from home, God's work provided the identity and security that had always been associated with home. So "home" was not so much a location as an attitude.

My two-year assignment stretched into three years.  Twice more I celebrated Christmas in Japan.  My second Christmas was a quiet celebration with co-workers after a ten-day stint in a Japanese hospital.  My third was observed in the midst of a blizzard which knocked out electricity for three days.  The power came on just long enough for us to cook the turkey!

Of course I missed being home, but even then I knew that God was with me and I was able to appreciate my three unique Christmas experiences.

Wherever you are this year, whatever your circumstances, I pray that you will see God's hand in your life and will have a blessed Christmas!

(Most of this post is taken from an article I wrote for the Nov/Dec 1994 issue of our magazine, Family Scrapbook.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fourth Sunday of Advent

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he wil be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

"Peace I leave with you,
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your heart be troubled,
and do not be afraid."
John 14:27

"I have told you these things
so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart!
I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Isaiah Tree

Two things I can say about my friend Sue -- as a decorator she has a gift for creating beauty, and she is a student of the Bible.  For the past fourteen months she has been immersed in the Old Testament book of Isaiah through a women's Bible Study at her church.  Last week they completed Isaiah 66, the last chapter of the book.

Over the years Sue has been so busy helping others decorate their homes for Christmas that she hasn't had her own tree for some time.  But as she pondered Isaiah's portrayal of a holy God and an unfaithful people, his prophecy about the child to be born, and his description of the suffering Savior who would take our sins upon Himself, she came up with the idea of an Isaiah Christmas tree.

With materials she had on hand, Sue created scrolls and banners of her favorite passages from Isaiah.  She was able to purchase the old world ornaments that she needed from Wight's Nursery in Lynnwood.  Then she set about decorating the exquisite Isaiah tree, which represents the purpose of the coming of the babe in the manger.

Thank you, Sue, for sharing your photos with us, and your heart for Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fosket Family Christmas Tradition

Gift giving is a big part of the Christmas celebration, especially for a family with five children.  When we were growing up, Mom did lots of shopping, but she really hated to wrap gifts.  She certainly couldn't have the presents gift wrapped, neither did she want to wrap them herself.

So she figured out a system that worked for us.

When the time came to wrap the gifts that she had stashed in the back of the closet, Mom would pile them on the bed and go to work.  Each gift would have its own box, whether it was the original box or a shirt box from the department store or an old shoe box that the gift would fit into.  She would assign a number to each gift and write that number on the box.  There was no logic to her numbering system.  It might be the year the recipient was born or our telephone number or the number of her favorite baseball player.  Whatever came to her mind, she wrote it down.

She prepared a master list with a column for each person in the family, and she would write the assigned gift number in the appropriate column.  Then she would bring her pile of gifts into the living room where wrapping paper, ribbon, scissors and tape littered the floor.  We kids would wrap each gift carefully, making it as beautiful as possible, because there was always a possibility that the gift was our own!  We'd transfer the number from the box onto the wrapping paper.  Then we'd pile the gifts under the tree.

We had little interest in shaking the gifts, as we didn't know which were ours.

On Christmas morning we were reminded that there were, indeed,  some flaws in this system.  We always had to wait for Mom to remember where she had hidden her master list.  Once she found it, Tim and Ted, the youngest, would pull out the gifts and call out the numbers -- if they could find them.  Sometimes no number at all had been written on the gift.  And sometimes the numbers we'd transferred to the outside of the box were just plain wrong.  In that case a boy would open a girl's nightgown or a girl would get a toy car.

One year in particular stands out in my mind.  Back in the 50s you could get a big box of potato chips with three bags of chips inside.  The perfect size for Christmas gifts, Mom decided.  We ate bags and bags of potato chips that year and Mom saved all the boxes.  When she went Christmas shopping, she didn't buy anything that wouldn't fit into a potato chip box!  Imagine Dad's surprise when one of the gifts he opened actually turned out to be potato chips!

These days Mom wraps the gifts herself, but when the family gathers for Christmas, she digs around for her master list and keeps it close at hand as the youngest members of the family call out numbers.  We all groan, but we love it!  It's just how we do it at the Fosket house.

Photo by alancleaver_2000

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Johansson Family Christmas Tradition

   In my family growing up, we celebrated Santa Lucia Day.  My father was from Sweden and we had visited there many times, so taking on this tradition was something we did to honor my father and the "old country" he missed, and it made for some really fun memories that I am now continuing with my own children.
   When I was a girl, on December the 13th I would wake up early with my mother and I would put on a long white dress or nightgown and put a wreath with five candles on my head.  We would wake up my brothers and dress them in white and put a tall pointed hat on their heads with gold stars and give them a long stick to hold with a big gold star on the end....they were the "Star Boys" that would walk along side Santa ("Santa" means "Saint" in Swedish) Lucia to help guide her way as she brought coffee and "Lucia rolls" to the father of the household to wake him.  
   There are many stories of the Saint Lucia and they differ depending on which country in Europe you are celebrating the holiday in.  The story we grew up with was that Santa Lucia was a young Christian woman who was promised in marriage to an evil man.  She pleaded with her family to release her from the engagement and instead give her the dowry to give to the poor and suffering Christians who were under persecution at that time.  Her wish was granted and the story goes that Lucia gave all she had to the poor and would sneak through the tunnels of the city late at night bringing food and drink to the persecuted.  Because she needed light but was using her hands to carry her gifts, she would put candles on her head to light her way.  The story ends with Lucia being found out and burned at the stake but, some stories say that God saved her from the flames so her enemies killed her by the sword.
   So throughout Europe today many countries celebrate and remember the beautiful young martyr with ceremonies in churches, homes, nursing homes and even schools.  
   So now that I have my own children, we have taken this special holiday and put a little twist on it... On every December 13th, we gather with family and friends in the evening and have a Swedish meal of potatoes, Lingon berry preserves, Swedish meatballs, a traditional mustard coated ham, sparkling pear cider, Swedish open faced sandwiches, special ginger cookies, and of course, coffee!  After the dinner, all the children run upstairs to change into their clothes and the adults wait excitedly downstairs for their arrival.  
   Once all the little girls are dressed in their white gowns and the little boys in their Star boy hats and stars, we wait for the eldest girl to lead us all as Santa Lucia.  My daughter has been Santa Lucia for the past several years now...she wears a simple long white gown...simple to represent that Lucia gave up her riches to give to the poor, white to symbolize Lucia's purity.   Then we put a beautiful long deep red sash around her waist to represent the blood Lucia shed, the lights are turned down as we put the beautiful wreath of candles on her head to light her way, the little children follow behind her: Star boys and Lucia Maidens to help Lucia in her quest to reach the poor.  As the children descend the stairs with their candles and baskets of Lucia rolls and ginger cookies, the beautiful song " Santa Lucia " is sung by my younger sister.  Everyone downstairs is thrilled to see the adorable children come down and walk around handing out rolls and cookies to everyone in the room.  
   The story of Santa Lucia is read and everyone enjoys the treats and visiting and taking pictures of the children.  This has been such a highly anticipated event that I have people asking me through out the year if we will do it again next year and can they please come!  Aren't traditions fun to pass down?!

(Thank you, Brianna, for your wonderful story.  And you, Veronica, for permission to use your lovely paper doll.  You can find her work at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

While You Were Sleeping

Do you take your troubles to bed with you?  That can be hard on your sleep!

I've got some good news: God wants us to hand over those troubles to Him.  He's big enough to carry our loads and manage our details.

The Bible gives us some insight into His ability to work on our behalf, even while we're sleeping.  Here's what He might say to a few of the people from the Bible:

Adam, while you were sleeping, I formed Eve from your rib and presented you with a helper.
I wrestled with you through the night, Jacob, and changed your life.
Moses, while Egypt slept I came with my last plague and opened the way for my people to escape.
Samuel, I called you in the night and you responded.
David could have killed you, Saul, while you were sleeping, but he spared your life.
Daniel, I gave you dreams about the future so you could tell others.
I sent my angel to tell you to take Mary as your wife, Joseph.
I slept in a manger when I came to live among you.
I prayed in the Garden while you, my disciples, slept.
And I slept in the boat, my head on a pillow, during a violent storm, because I knew my Father was taking care of everything, even while I was sleeping.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Leading Off with a Question

Looking for a good conversation starter?  Lead off with a question.  You might try one of these:

What time is it?
Have you seen the latest Narnia movie?
Where did you get that great jacket?  (not too polite, but sure to get an answer)

Here's one you might not want to use yourself, but you can bet it caused a stir when it was asked:  Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?

Consider the circumstances.  An unspecified number of foreign travelers arrive in Jerusalem.  They are serious about their mission -- they have seen a star which, according to their study, heralds the birth of a King, and they want to pay him homage.

When they get to town they start asking around for any information that will help them in their search for the child.  Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? they ask.

You can't show up in town asking about a king without arousing the attention of the palace.  When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  "Disturbed" doesn't sound like such a strong word, but it is the same Greek word translated in Galatians 1:7  as "throwing you into confusion," and in Matthew 14:26 as "terrified" (when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water in the midst of a storm).

King Herod's future is in jeopardy, and he knows it.  The prophecies of the Messiah are being fulfilled!  "God With Us" has arrived on the scene!

You can read the story in Matthew 2 of the New Testament.  And if you, too, are seeking a King, you will find Him in the pages of the Bible.  What better time to be seeking than this time of year, when we celebrate His birth.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday of Advent

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he wil be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

"If you really knew me,
you would know my Father as well.
From now on,
you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said, "Lord show us the Father
and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered:
"Don't you know me, Philip,
even after I have been among you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
Don't you believe that I am in the Father,
and that the Father is in me?
The words I say to you are not just my own. 
Rather, it is the Father, living in me,
who is doing his work."
John 14:7-10

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas, 1957


With love to my family

Christmas Eve at the Kauffman house

What did we get??

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol 
G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lights of Christmas

Here's a popular Christmas tradition in the Pacific Northwest -- the Lights of Christmas at Warm Beach Camp.  If you haven't been to the Lights of Christmas, this would be a great time to check it out!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pettingill Family Christmas Tradition

Growing up we always raided our Dad's sock drawer on Christmas Eve to choose one to hang on the mantle. When my folks moved from the family home 30 years ago, my siblings and I were each given a little block of white painted wood with our own nail from the mantle and one of Dad's socks. I still get it out every year, but we did not con-tinue the tradition with our own children; they have their own socks!

(Thanks to Kathy Pettingill Kettenring for sharing this Christmas tradition!  What would you like to share?)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What You've Always Wanted

Tom's dad took this photo of Marilee and Danny in 1949 at Mt Rainier
Salvation is the name of all you've ever wanted.  All your longings, some vague as rumors, some sharp as skewers, are answered in the gift of God's eternal welcome.  Whatever you called by other names, sought in other places, hunted by other means, wanted for other ends, was really and always salvation.  Salvation feeds your soul's deep craving.

Mark Buchanan, 
Hidden in Plain Sight

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stevens Family Christmas Traditions

Our family loves tradition.  One of our Christmas traditions is no Christmas music, decorations, candy, etc. until the day after Thanksgiving.  Then we go hog wild!  We also go to Seattle the day after Thanksgiving to ride the carousel, sing the Christmas carols, and watch them light the tree and Bon/Macy's Star.  We do not shop however, except to buy dinner.  My favorite tradition is making a birthday cake for Jesus.  We make the cake and then after the big meal on Christmas Day we sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus.  The kids blow out the candles together and we all eat the cake! 

(Thank you to Joscelyn and Adam Stevens for sharing their family Christmas traditions and photos.  What traditions do you have that you'd like to share with readers?  You may not be a professional photographer, like Adam is, but send along a photo if you have one.  But even if you don't, we'd love to hear from you!)

Hymn of the Month -- I Wonder as I Wander

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he wil be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

One day Jesus said to his disciples,
"Let's go over to the other side of the lake."
So they got into a boat and set out.
As they sailed, he fell asleep.

A squall came down on the lake,
so that the boat was being swamped,
and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying,
"Master, Master, we're going to drown!"

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters;
the storm subsided, and all was calm.
"Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another,
"Who is this?
He commands even the winds and the water,
and they obey him."
Luke 8:22-25

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Christmas Wish List

What does it say about a person who knows most of the words of this song?  I guess it says that person's been around for a very long time.  Hmmmmm.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom

Thank you for the very dear, precious mom you are, for the joy and common sense you brought to your parenting, for being so down-to-earth.  Thanks for driving around in a space helmet and saying "gosh!" when you turned your ankle and dropped your groceries.  Thank you for welcoming our friends and for always being available for us to tell you what was on our minds.  Thank you for tricking us into good manners by the long weeks of practice before taking us to a restaurant.  Thank you for those long years when you made all those sandwiches for us kids and Dad every morning and had to come up with other things to go in our lunches as well.  Thank you for the roast beef on Sundays -- then and now -- the finest kind of comfort food.

Thank you for seeing the best in each of your children and letting us all know that we were loved.  Thank you for carrying us in your heart for the past 60 years, and for the long hours of private prayer that have ascended for each of us.  Thank you for reading the Bible and memorizing it, and putting it into practice.  Thank you for loving your grandchildren and for your prayers for them as well.

Thank you for your relationship with Dad.  Thank you that as a little girl you began to think about what you wanted in a husband, and you knew you'd found it when you met Dad.  Thank you that we didn't have enough money but we didn't know it because you learned to trust God through those experiences.  Thank you for the way you and Dad were always on the same team, and it was usually the team we wanted to be on.  Thanks for the camping trips, for the years at Family Camp, the Why-Not Days, your face when you were watching your family doing something together.  Thank you for working like a lumberjack and for being willing to tackle any kind of home project.

Much of what we learn in life is by osmosis, absorbing it from the environment and example around us.  Your children and grandchildren and more people than you will ever know have been nurtured, instructed and inspired by you, my beautiful, remarkable mom.

Happy Birthday, Mama.  I love you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In the Company of Others

I'm reading a Jan Karon book, In the Company of Others, the second in her Father Tim series.  It's not a book I gulp down to see how it turns out; it's a book I sip.  I let her images, her characters, her writing style in a bit at a time so that I can really experience them.  I find joy and peace in reading her books, as well as inspiration.

Always many-layered, Ms Karon's books are a cultural feast including music, literature, and art.  And they look deeply into the souls of the characters.  After dinner one night in Braoghadoon, the Irish inn in which they are staying, Bella plays violin for the guests.  "The music came at them abruptly and with such raw force that he was rocked back in his chair.  Raging, wounded, feverish music, with the volume of a dozen fiddles at work in the room...The piece ended suddenly.  There was a long, stunned silence -- then, an explosion of applause as Bella looked without expression above their heads" (p.138).

Snatches of scripture and theology are woven into conversation in all of her books.  To Anna, the innkeeper, during a moment of deep reflection, Father Tim tells her, "A good Scot named George MacDonald said God is impossible to satisfy but easy to please" (p. 99).

And the cuisine in her stories is exquisite!  How about Moroccan figs poached in a syrup of ginger and honey with Anna's lemon verbena ice cream?  The Orange Marmalade Cake which appears throughout the Mitford series is to die for -- and Father Tim nearly did die from a diabetic coma after eating too much of it!  You'll find the recipe for it and other Mitford specialties in Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader.

Ms Karon was about 60 when she began her Mitford series.  That's the age Father Tim, the never-married Episcopal priest in Mitford, North Carolina was when we first meet him.  It wasn't too long until Cynthia, a children's writer, moved in next door, and that changed everything.

Now, after eight years of marriage, he is still amazed by the wonder of it all:
"There he'd been, tied up at the dock for better than sixty years, the waves occasionally swamping his boat, but safe at harbor, nonetheless. Then she'd moved next door and in no time at all he was unmoored completely. He was terrified of being dashed on the rocks, or adrift on the deep with no way to read the stars of his frightening passion -- he was the old may 'way out at sea in the thrall of a woman who found him romantic and clever. St. Matthew had asked, Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? Ha. He had grown ten feet tall in the first months of his fumbling courtship" (p. 131).

I'll excuse myself now, as I'm feeling thirsty for a sweet sip of soul juice.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ring in December

Let's get the month off to a good start with my friend, Kathie Fink, playing the handbells.  When she was growing up her father purchased a set of handbells and brought them home for the family to learn to play.  It didn't take long until the Fink Family Handbell Ringers began traveling together, performing.  You can learn more about Kathie's music today and see some historic footage of her family in concert at her website.  Happy December!

P.S.  I thoroughly enjoy this music, but the suggestion that we "let it snow" is in no way a reflection of my personal wishes for the weather!   Nor would I be any more excited by the prospect if the song instead said, "Let it rain"!

By the way, I'm anxious to share with readers your Christmas traditions.  If you've got something you'd like to submit, send it to, and include a photo or two if you can.