I am late this year with my Christmas traditions - grading final projects set me back, and then I had to pull a few near-all nighters this past week to get ready for CARAT-GIS training at the Pinedale, Wyoming BLM office. Remind me never to schedule a training (or anything else, for that matter) in December. I simply was not motivated to work on it. It was almost agony to force myself to open the program on my computer. Oh thank you thank you Lord that it is over now. Despite a combination of grading and training stress, I've managed to squeeze in most of my Christmas highlights this year. The annual University Christmas tree auction: we can't afford any of the trees but they sure are fun to look at. Here is a picture of me with the twins in front of my favorite tree, decorated in a "cowboy" theme. The day after the Christmas tree auction is usually the University's Christmas Concert, which ranges from jazz ensembles to accapella to a full symphonic and 100+ person choir finale. Wonderful!
Then last weekend we had something new - Blaze and Dreamer were in our church's nativity play as angels. Thank you Mom for sewing their tunics. Sewing and I just don't go together. My pitiful attempt at sewing an Advent calendar for my friend K.A. is witness of this. I have it about 1/3 done, and I'm about ready to give up on it. I envisioned it looking so much better! But I will finish it (though at the rate I'm going it will after Christmas) and if it still doesn't look good, I'll keep it for us and find a proper seamstress to help me with one next year.
Speaking of the advent calendar though, another beloved Christmas tradition I remember from my childhood and now revived again for my girls. I made a paper version last year and the girls were excited to see it reappear this year. They love it because of the candy they get after finding the current day's number and corresponding picture and verse, no doubt, but I love it because the verses help us keep in sight the true reason for Christmas.
A beloved tradition is decorating the house. This is not a chore, and it is not something you do just to have a pretty Christmas house, the process of unpacking and unwrapping and setting up is all part of it, too. The past few years I have started collecting Christmas ornaments and decorations, and I find it simply delightful to pull out the boxes and rediscover everything each year. Because of course you forget a lot of things, and then when they reappear again from their tissue paper wrappings, even little $1 ornaments can be a delight. I especially love the decorations that were gifts from family or friends. And it is all the more special with the kids oohing and aahing over everything too. Here is my ever-expanding collection of nutcrackers (note how they are arranged on top of the piano, to discourage curious three- year-old hands from playing with them). And also a photo of the nativity scene that my in-laws gave us, and Joy showed me how to paint it.
What would Christmas be without parties? Especially white elephant gift parties. I think this is the greatest game ever invented. A free way to have hilarious fun! Our Tuesday night Bible study had a white elephant gift exchange at our Christmas party, and there were some really nice gifts and some really awful (but funny ones!) I started out by stealing a pretty wooden decorative sleigh; got that stolen from me but was able to steal another good gift and keep it - a couple books and a decorative lantern. The funniest gift was a collection of really awful mugs. Boot mugs, mugs with Indian faces, but the best one of all was a toilet mug. I almost, ALMOST decided to steal this just so I could see the expression on B's face when I brough the toilet mug home to him (he missed the party). You know, him being a plumber and all. John H. made a comment about the mug that was absolutely priceless. I haven't laughed so hard in a long time.
"When you fill that mug up with coffee and hand it the poor soul on the receiving end, you just HAVE to ask them this: 'would you like one lump or two?' "
Maybe you had to be there, but that was funny. That was classic John H. funny - he's made me crack up a hundred times but I swear he saved the best for last. (oh how we will miss him! John and Lisa are moving away so he can finish seminary - I've known them 15 years! I can't imagine our church without them!)
As the year is wrapping up, I have a few more memory verses that I want to share from Beth Moore's scripture memory challenge.
Proverbs 14:1 The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish one tears it down with her own hands.
This is a good verse to remember when I am frustrated/furious at B. and I just want to break free from him. I have had a lot of those moments this year with all the financial stress that has come along with the recession and B's business doing so poorly. I do not want to be a foolish woman. I do not want to react based on feelings, but on the wisdom of the Word.
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
This is an amazing pair of verses, I have always loved this verse and figured it was due time to have it fully memorized. It speaks of miracle of the Word, that it's not just some dusty old historical book. It is living and active! It is life-changing.
John 7:17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of this teaching, whether it is of God..
I have always thought that John 7:17 is an amazing verse to have on hand when an opportunity to talk with skeptics. Unfortunately, I haven't yet had an opportunity to use it, but at least if I have it memorized I will be ready when the time finally comes.
This next verse is Beth Moore's favorite verse, and when she mentioned it I remembered it was one of my favorites too, but one I have forgotten about it. Well, hopefully I won't forget it again - if I put it on my memory list!
Psalm 27:4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
I need to really make a good effort to work on learning my November and December verses and also reviewing my other verses for the year. It is sad how quickly they get lost if you don't make an effort every week or two. And it doesn't take long - only 10 or 15 minutes. And the process of learning them and reviewing them is itself a time of communion and worship with my Jesus and my Lord - a time to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.