Quote of the Weekend

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

(I have enjoyed many movie versions of this movie and I have loved the book. I think it is one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time!)

 

 

Advertisements

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Finding the Perfect Tree

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Eight cousins stared up up up at the tall evergreen trying to see the star on top.

“Can we turn on the lights?” Constance said itching her nose. Her frog umbrella, better known as her umbrella cannon, lay on the floor beside her.

“Yes, can we?” Bruce asked pulling his silly lumberjack hat off.

“Of course,” Grammie said. “Ready Aunt Abby?”

“Ready,” Aunt Abby said from behind the tree. She fiddling for a few moments and then Suddenly! beautiful lights lit up the tree. They sparkled and gleamed.

“Ohhhh!” the eight cousins said together.

“Hey look,” Aunt Abby said, “we didn’t have to use gloves to decorate the tree.”

“Why would you need gloves to decorate the tree?” Jules said.

“Well, when me and your Uncle Matt, Aunt Em, Uncle Jason, and Aunt Liz where kids we had to go cut down our own Christmas tree.”

“You did?” Joshua said.

“It didn’t come out of a box?” said Ellie.

“Nope. It came out of a field. It came out of Great Gran’s field.”

“Great Gran’s field?” Jude said. “Great Gran doesn’t have a field.”

“She doesn’t any more, but long, long ago, when the five of us were all little kids, Great Gran had a huge field. Many many times bigger than Grammie and Grandpa’s field. And that’s where we got our Christmas trees.”

“How?” said Imogene.

“Come on, let’s get some eggnog and I’ll tell you.”

The eight cousins gathered around the tree each with a cup filled with sweet eggnog. The Christmas lights twinkled and the decorations sparkled.


 

Once upon a time, Grammie sent the Five brothers and sisters out to Great Gran’s pasture with a saw.

“What’s a saw?” Rook asked.

“It’s a tool to cut wood.”

“Oh.”

The Five brothers and sisters bundled up in sweaters, scarves, gloves, and rubber boots. They hiked up the hill to the gate taking Heidi their dog with them. Passing through the gate, they decided to go to the very back of the pasture to find the perfect Christmas tree.

Pretty evergreens with long needles didn’t grow in the pasture, itchy sharp cedar trees did. That was just fine with the Five kids. Cedar trees looked like Christmas trees and smelled like Christmas trees. That was all that mattered to them.

With Matt in the lead, they hiked up hills, down hills, past several cow ponds, past the ravine where there was lots of interesting trash, over a stream where Heidi found something to sniff, and out into the back pasture. They loudly sang Christmas carols as they hiked starting with Jingle Bells and finishing with Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

In the back pasture, cedar trees grew everywhere. The Five kids made their way through the sharp and sticky branches. First, Emily found a tree, but it was too skinny. Abby found one next, but it had strange branch coming out the back. Jason found one, but a close inspection reviled a brown spot on the back. Liz liked the short round one, but Matt said it was too short.

They kept looking. Christmas depended on the perfect tree and they didn’t give up easily.

Deeper and deeper into the cedar trees they hunted still singing Christmas carols. A cotton-tailed rabbit rushed away from their noise and a hawk watched them from high in the sky.

“Look!” said Liz.

The four old siblings turned and saw the perfect tree. It was tall but not too tall, green all the way around, round but tapering to a perfect point for Auntie Janet’s angel.

“It’s perfect,” Abby said.

The others agreed. Matt took the saw, while the girls held the branches carefully back, and cut it down.

“Timber!” shouted Jason as the tree fell over.

The Five kids hefted it up on their shoulder and took the easiest path home with no barbed-wire fences to cross.

Reaching their house, they carried the tree to Grandpa to let him set it in the tree stand. It stood straight and true as they carried it in the living room.

“Get your gloves,” Grammie said.

Donning their gloves, the Five brothers and sisters decorated the itchy, pointy Christmas tree with lights, and all their favorite candy canes, sleds, Santas, reindeer, and snowmen. Matt, being the tallest, put Auntie Janet’s angel on the top to finish it off.


 

20141110_081945

“And that’s how we used to get our Christmas trees,” Aunt Abby said drinking the last of her eggnog.

“Aunt Abby, did you live in the olden days?” Jules asked.

“Yes Julie-bear, before internet, in the olden ’80s and 90’s.”

“Wow. You’re really old,” Bruce said.

“Thank you, Bruce.”

“Are you older than 19?” Jules asked.

Aunt Abby laughed. “Aren’t we telling Christmas stories?”

“Yes, tell us another Christmas story.”

“How about the time we lit the backyard on fire on Christmas eve?”

“Yes! I like fire,” Bruce said.

“Me too,” Constance said.

Aunt Abby settled back to tell more stories about many magical Christmases long long ago.

10801629_10205412873871223_4584408967729332710_n

Rook, the pumpkin!

10641027_10100337722969284_6058900744522463198_n

Jude, the puppy!

10710924_10205151925185688_7347892696080698411_n

Ellie, the Fairy, Jules, the Princess, Imogene, the Owl, Bruce, the Ghost, and Aunt Abby as Ichabod Crane.

Happy Thanksgiving!

ThanksgivingColors600Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him

and praise his name.

 Psalm 100:4

Happy Thanksgiving! 

May your tables be covered with wonderful foods, surrounded by friends and family raising glasses, and filled with delight in the Lord!

I love Thanksgiving! I love the spirit of this holiday!

We have much to give thanks for. We have been richly blessed by the Lord.

What are you most thankful for this day?

Slice of Life: Destress your Holidays

dbb06f3af74da51fb320f55da3f93acd

I know so many people who have a bah-humbug attitude towards the holiday. I’m not talking about everyone who teases me about my proclivity to listen to Christmas music at totally inappropriate times…like July. I’m not talking about the people who have very few happy memories tied to the holidays. I’m talking about the people who growl at you when you tell them Merry Christmas, or tell you that Thanksgiving is a waste because people just pig out. (I’ve heard that one, yes.)

Do you realize we live in a society that might have forgotten the point of a holiday? Go listen to the original Grinch who stole Christmas. They eat Roast Beast! And they enjoy it! How politically incorrect of them.

Maybe your holiday is stressful and grumpy because you have forgotten the point. Maybe you should spread cheer instead of snarls?

happyEnding

If you get stressed cause it’s so expensive, have the courage to examine you’re standards are for a happy holiday. Maybe you could work together with a couple other families for Thanksgiving and share the expense load. Maybe you could make homemade gifts out of things just lying around the house. Pinterest is full of neat ideas about how to re-purpose things.

If it stresses you out because it takes you two weeks to decorate the house and three to take it down, maybe you need to cut back on your decorating.

Christmas should be about the tradition, the fun, the family.

When I was young, it was all about the presents. As I grew it still stayed about the presents. Would so and so like what I got them? Oh, the pressure to find the perfect gift! What about my gifts? What if someone got me something I hated? What would I do? What about me!?

As I got older and my family grew up, my siblings and I created our own families and got to see each other less, I noticed my concerns shifting. I wasn’t worried about presents, I was worried about my brothers being home for the holidays. I wasn’t worried about black Friday, I was worried about what time my extra brother would have to leave us so he could be at work on time. The presents aren’t really that important to me anymore. It’s far more important that we all get to be together for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s the food, the warmth, the cheer. It’s reading the Christmas Story together, impromptu nerf gun fights, video games, beer tastings, pictures, watching our favorite Christmas movies and singing our favorite songs. It’s the magic of snow and lights. It’s teaching the kids to quote Christmas quotes and sing Christmas songs. It’s eating too much pie.

The holidays are only going to be as stressful as you let them be. If you feel anxious about the next eight weeks instead of excited maybe you need to reevaluate what you think the holidays mean. Maybe you need to pass out cards with personal notes in them instead of buying gifts. Maybe you need to get in the kitchen with some friends instead of alone. I recommend sisters or your mom!

Maybe you have suffered significant loss on the holidays or are alone. Make some new holiday traditions. Remember the point: be thankful for what we have, and, as Tolkien said, for turning point of Grace when Christ came to earth. This is the point. Make memories around that.

And don’t get all PC about the waste of the food. Holidays only happen once in a while and they ‘re meant to be over the top celebrations. Be a Fezziwig, not a Scrooge.

Fezziwig's Ball

Fezziwig’s Ball

Quote of the Weekend

 

Pride slays thanksgiving, but a humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves. – Henry Ward Beecher
(I love this quote. Humility is the soil of thankfulness. We see this kind of pride so often in our own country. If you think you’re entitled it’s because you’re not humble. Humility doesn’t demand, it’s thankful for all that it has.)

Special Agents: The Mysterious Case of the Monsters under the Bed (Part 15)

SpecialAgentsPart 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Up, up, up they rushed knowing they left Peter behind with more monsters to handle than even their best training could deal with. Faster, faster, faster, they ran knowing he had given them this opportunity.

The twin Special Agents burst from the tunnel into the bright sunshine of mid-morning. The wind whipped around them. Shielding their eyes with their hands, they saw The Woman, the Son, and the man in the bowler hat climbing onto a helicopter. They charged without a word.

Darting under the swift blades, Lauren bounded on the Woman wrapping her arms around the Woman’s neck. She opened her mouth and let the siren go off right in the Women’s ear. The Woman collapsed to the ground, but Lauren didn’t let go. She kept her mouth wide-open incapacitating her arch nemesis.

“Mom?” the Son said, glancing back.

Rachel slugged him right in the mouth.

“That’s for lying to us,” she said.

She kicked him in the shin, “And that’s for kidnapping our parents.”

The man in the boiler hat reached for the girls with hairy hands. Rachel and Lauren grabbed a handful of robot roaches from their pockets and flung them at the man. The brown bugs clicked and crawled into his sleeves and the neck of his shirt. He screamed clawing at his clothes.

The Woman blacked out. The Son held his hands to his face, his nose bleeding. They had not escaped.

Several children and Agent Carmichael, in black uniforms and guns, surrounded the helicopter. He tossed Rachel and Lauren zip ties to secure their prisoners. The helicopter shut down, it’s blades slowing to a full stop.

“Good work, Special Agents, you stopped the Woman, again” Carmichael congratulated them.

“Peter!” Rachel shouted.

Leading the way, Lauren and Rachel rushed back down the tunnel with several Special Agent teams behind them. Back in the experiment room, they found Peter. He held the doorway, one Super Soaker empty, and one on low. A nasty cut bled into his face and his jeans were shredded at the knee. Someone tossed them some fresh Super Soakers. Lauren and Rachel stopped at Peter’s side and opened fire. They pushed into the room capturing monsters left and right. The rest of the Agents spilled in around them making quick work of the last few Creepers and Boogiemen and Mash-ups.

“Did you get them?” Peter asked.

“Yes, yes we got them,” Rachel said

Lauren opened her mouth and wailed. Gasping, she dropped to the floor, all of her gone white with scales. Rachel rushed to her side. Lauren’s siren went silent.

Early morning sunlight stung Lauren. She blinked trying to clear away the sleep stuck in her eyes. The world came into focus. She lay in her bed, in her bedroom, and the light poured in her window.

“Look who’s awake,” Mom said. “Feeling better?”

Lauren nodded. She opened her mouth just a crack but no siren came out. Excited, she touched her face. No scales covered her skin.

“I am feeling better,” Lauren said. “Where’s Rachel?”

“She’s working on some school work. You’ve been sick for several days, so you’ll have lots to catch up on. I’ll send her down to say hi.”

Lauren groaned. “School work waits for no one.”

“Yes it does, it’s waiting for you to be well enough to do it. You have some videos you can watch this morning for Astronomy.”

“Mom, I just woke up.”

“Homeschoolers don’t get to skip education,” Mom said cheerfully. “I’ll bring you something to eat in a second.”

Mom left the room. Lauren hid under the blankets wondering what had happened. How had she been cured? Where was everyone? What happened to the Woman and the Son?

“Lauren?” Rachel hissed.

Lauren jumped out from under the covers.

“Rachel! I’m fixed!”

“Yeah, Victor found an antidote in the room with all the experimented monsters. They got Mom and Dad home and fixed their memories. Something new Jane’s working on. Look who I have.” Rachel held up a fat black cat with glistening fur.

“We get to keep him??”

“Yep, Mom said we could. I named him Loyal.”

Lauren nodded. “Good name.”

“Listen Lauren, I just got a message from Carmichael. There’s a report of trolls in a culvert out near town. Two kids have already gone missing. He wants to know if you’re up to it?”

“When do we go?”

“Tonight.”

“I’m ready.”

“One other thing,” Rachel said.

“Yeah?”

“Peter’s coming with us. Carmichael wants us to train him.”

Lauren grinned. “Sounds good.”

“Girls,” Mom called from the kitchen. “Schoolwork!”

They shared a glance and a groan. “Yes ma’am,” they said in unison.

The End

Don't mess with these two. They're Secret Agents!

Don’t mess with these two. They’re Special Agents!

Thanksgiving 3

thanksgiving

I’m thankful for salvation. I’m not a worthy saint. I’m not a nice person. I’m a miserable sinner. I stand in need of a mediator between me and God. I’m so thankful for Christ, who came to this earth, took on flesh, lived a holy life, and died for such a wretch like me. You would think that the older you get the more you acclimate to the miracle of salvation. That it might grow dull due to familiarity. It doesn’t. The longer I walk this world the more precious to me it is. The more I cling to it. This world fades around me, and Christ becomes ever more dear to me. Look at what He has won for me!  Life, adoption, eternity! How I love the Captain of my Salvation!

Writing Journal: Always Winter and Never Christmas

Santa-Clause1

“Always winter and never Christmas,” is one of those lines that is used, in excess, in my family. Any time someone says anything about winter a chorus of voices says “Always winter and never Christmas.” The magic of this statement is found in the Chronicles of Narnia, in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis.

I have always loved the idea the evil magic kept Christmas from coming and that Santa Claus actually works as one of the King’s servants. I love it when he comes to Peter, Susan, Edmond, Lucy, and the Beavers and says, “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last.”

He was a huge man in a bright red robe (bright as holly berries) with a hood that had fur inside it and a great white beard that fell like a foamy waterfall over his chest.…
Now that the children actually stood looking at him… he was so big, so glad, and so real, that they all became quite still. They felt very glad, but also solemn.

“I’ve come at last,” said he. “She has kept me out for a long time, but I have got in at last. Aslan is on the move. The witch’s magic is weakening.”

And Lucy felt that deep shiver of gladness that you only get if you are being solemn and still.

It is a wonderful feeling as a child to have such a joyous representation of the coming of Aslan. Every child given the chance to celebrate Christmas knows the thrill of the holiday. They know all about bells, sleighs, the man in the red suit, carols, special food, and presents.

I have always wanted to share my love of Christmas in my writing. Many of my books take place in the fall and early winter, but I’ve never had one that worked with the Christmas holiday. The other ones were too short and dark. The light and delight of Christmas seemed harsh and garish in that setting. I had not established a world where it soothed the soul like it does in ours. There was zero soul soothing in my first world.

In my YA story, Jonah has been rescued from Prison by the sacrifice of a man named Soul and brought to live in a new place: Greenhome. Greenhome is a magical place of safety and joy. Families are made there. Men and women take in the worst of children and give them a home. The childless and the parentless come together in Greenhome. Jonah comes from the Streets—a dirty, dark, and violent place—and finds himself awed not just the abundance of food and clothing, but by the celebration that’s about to take place.

Jonah has never celebrated Christmas. He’s never been given a present and he has never given a present.

Lights, candles, garlands, trees, holly, presents, and songs surround him. (While I work on these scenes, I often sing “What’s This?” from Nightmare Before Christmas.) His head spins with all the traditions that are so new to him.

Using Christmas to juxtaposition the difference between the coldness of the Streets and the warmth of Greenhome has tickled my heart. I love Christmas. I have more fun, and sometimes funny, Christmas stories than I have time to write, though one year, maybe this year, I’m going to try to record some of them. I have written about why Vincents celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, but have I written about the year the yard caught on fire? Have I written about the magical Christmas where it snowed and my brother got to come home? Have I ever written about my first kiss being on Christmas Eve?

In book 2, after all the things that could go wrong have gone wrong, the joy of Christmas will be part of what holds Jonah up through the darkness. The light of Greenhome decorated for the holiday will remind him that not all the world is lost in shadow, war, and hopelessness, for that is what Christmas does, right? Christmas is the celebration of God coming with a peace-offering to a dark and lost world. He is the light and he came down to us offering peace. His Son came and willingly subjected himself to a body, poverty, betrayal, suffering, and then death for us. This is the great and deep truth of Christmas. This is the under-girding foundation of all that is wonderful and magical about this holiday.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” – Luke 2/14

As a writer, you pour bits and pieces of yourself into your worlds and your characters. Christmas, in all its glory and magic, is one of the ways I’ve done that in my story. It makes me so excited!

A sound made him pause. Voices lifted outside his frosted window. People were singing. He listened wondering what kind of songs they sang here in Greenhome. Where they bawdy songs filled with cursing like the one Christopher taught them? Or maybe they were the haunted sad song the crones sang? Sometimes an unborn would be harvested that could sing. They usually died quickly on the Streets. Singing wasn’t a helpful skill. The words came to him: born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King!”

The song made little sense to Jonah. It did draw him in a way, a quiet way. It didn’t feel dirty like Christopher’s song and it didn’t make life seem darker like the crones’ song. There was a powerful joy in the voices raised and the words sung. He’d have to ask Soul what it meant. Maybe it had to do with this Christmas thing everyone seemed so excited about.

– Icicle Rain by Abby Jones

Sunday Thought: God’s Holiness and my Husband

jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carter

It’s interesting to me to share a Sunday Thoughts based on a sermon my husband preached. I’ve done them based on my Dad’s sermons and our other pastors’ sermons. Why does it feel odd to do it based on my husband? Well, I’m very thankful for him. I’m proud of him, if I can use such a word. I pray for him. I think part of the sense of strangeness comes from the fact that our other pastors have been pastors so long it’s part of their identity. With my husband, I’m watching a man become a teacher and preacher from the inside out. It’s very humbling to be an observer of this process. It’s a constant balancing act for me to want to praise him from the roof tops, while at the same time understanding that this is all of Christ and nothing of him. I want him to remember that truth. The minute it becomes about my man, we have a serious problem. So, that’s why it’s a bit odd to me to write this.

There was something in his sermon that has stuck with me for weeks. Not like three notes from a song you can’t quiet remember, but like a new book that clutches your soul and fills you with joy. There was also something after his sermon that filled me with joy. I want to share these two things with you.

One: God’s Holiness. My husband confronted us with the sin of thinking of holiness as something hard or arrogant. I laughed to myself inwardly. I never thought of God’s holiness as hard, cold, grim, or arrogant. But if that’s true, why was I floored when he explained that the sin Isaiah preached against was injustice, harshness to the poor, taking bribes? If that is the sin, then God’s holiness is expressed in defending the weak, the fatherless and widow. God’s holiness is being kind, gentle, humble, and longsuffering, not harsh and cold. It’s also just. It doesn’t take a bribe pitting the rich against the poor.

What a beautiful thing! Holiness isn’t harsh or arrogant, but humble and submissive. I have fed on that truth, meditated, thrilled, and reveled in the joy of God’s “matchless condescension”. He who had every right to be harsh and arrogant became a poor homeless man for me. He defends the one who is defeated and broken. Oh, you who are broken look no further than the Holy God. He is kind because he is holy. He defends the orphans and widows (those who are so alone) because he is holy! Look what grace and strength is on the side of the meek. Chew on that. Read Isaiah 1 -11 and feed on how the Word defines holiness.

Meekness and majesty manhood and deity
In perfect harmony the Man who is God
Lord of eternity dwells in humanity
Kneels in humility and washes our feet

– Graham Kendrick

Two: Christ says in Ephesians that he will gift the church with pastors and teachers. Seeing my husband in the pulpit feeding me and the rest of our church with the truth of Scripture is Christ keeping his promise. Christ is gifting our little congregation with another man who can preach and teach. Will my husband ever be called as an elder? I don’t know. That’s not important. What is important is him using his gifts to serve his church and the praise and adoration I can offer up to God at this very tangible gift he has given our local body.

01

I’m so humbled and thankful to witness this in my husband and play a small part in supporting and loving him.

God is good to wretched sinners. I stand amazed  that he would use my husband to  serve his bride. I stand amazed and filled with joy.