December Photo Challenge: Holly Jolly

With December’s photo challenge from PJ, we say adios to 2017. This month’s challenge is, of course, Holly Jolly in celebration of the holidays….which come the same time every year….yet I’m never fully prepared.

But, here are my five for December.

Holly Jolly 1

We kicked off the season with a holiday concert at Peanut’s school with lots of fun songs about the season. My favorite was Zoot Suit Santa, compete with “shades” and attitude. Peanut doesn’t normally like to be the center of attention, but seemed to enjoy herself as much as we enjoyed watching her.

Holly Jolly 2

The tree went up the day after Thanksgiving and I was a bit concerned it would be down by the first of December because of a very excitable 50 pound, 8 month old pupper. But he didn’t mess with any of it! The closest time came when Bridget, the kitty, ran under the tree….it was a bit touch and go for a few minutes, but it still stands.

Holly Jolly 3

Two little grand-elves, Peanut and Twix, celebrating the season of giving. I laughed when I saw the photo with the upside-down Ho Ho Ho paper. I think it may work both ways. At 9 and 3, they are growing up too fast.

Holly Jolly 4

It came the morning of Christmas Eve. White stuff falling from the sky just in time to ensure a white Christmas. Cabo’s first Christmas and first snowfall. He had a jolly time outside.

Holly Jolly 5

This is a Magic Tree. It’s one of a few trees like this around our town, but definitely the biggest. Our church created it from an 85 foot tall Sycamore on the grounds. There are 38 miles of lights on this tree, with 200,000 bulbs…representing each person in our county. The symbolism is each light reminds us of a person in our community that is precious in God’s sight.

As with each bulb on this tree, may we all strive to be points of light in the dark places of this world….especially when it looks like all the other lights are out. Our love can shine in the darkness and light the way.

I hope everyone had wonderful holidays filled with lots of Jolly Holly moments. Please take a few minutes and visit PJ’s place to enjoy more jolliness.

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The reality of Christmas

We Christians do Christmas extremely well. We’re all about the decorating, shopping, family gatherings, singing carols. In fact, we’ve romanticized Christmas to the point where the reality of it may be a little unrecognizable.

Let me take you back….waaaay back. Back to about 3-4 BC (around the actual date of Christ’s birth) and let’s look at reality.

Meet Mary; a young woman betrothed to Joseph, a carpenter. Probably an arranged marriage between this young woman and an older man of means. In the middle of wedding preparations, God sends an angel to tell her she is going to have a baby….before the wedding….and Joseph will not be the biological father. Engaged, unwed and pregnant during this time would have been a death sentence for adultery. Even though an angel eventually revealed God’s plan to Joseph, the damage would have been done to both their reputations as well as their families. Ridicule and scorn would have followed during the pregnancy and after the birth. Their life plans derailed. Their futures uncertain. But, Mary and Joseph believed in God’s prophesy to bring the promised Messiah. Their faith in God’s promise and trust in his plan over their own plans sustained them during this time of crisis and chaos.

The blessed event was probably not the sweet baby Jesus, cooing in a manger surrounded by halos of peace and joy. A very pregnant Mary and nervous Joseph arrive in the obscure Judean outpost of Bethlehem for the census to find they have no place to stay. Offered a room or area where animals are housed, Mary begins the very messy process of birthing a baby. In very unsanitary, smelly conditions….surrounded by sheep, goats, maybe a few cows and chickens, the Messiah enters the world. He arrives after 400 years of God’s silence in anything but a silent night.

And we really can’t have Christmas without shepherds and angels, right? But why shepherds? This occupation was considered one of the lowest form of employment. Because they tended the flock 24/7, they probably weren’t frequent temple attendees. They held no value in the culture except to take care of sheep…specifically the lambs used in sacrificial offerings in the temple. And, the very last thing they expected to see while in the field was the sudden, unannounced appearance of beings from another realm in the sky. Startled, terrified and confused might have been words used to describe their reaction. God announced to these men tending the sacrificial lambs the divine message of the birth of the ultimate Lamb to be sacrificed. But, given their social status, who was going to believe them?

The messiness of a livestock shelter and a feeding trough. Wealth and means were nowhere in sight. No, it was dirty and crude. Just the way it was supposed to be.

And now we get to the Magi. We’ve elevated them to “kings,” but in reality, they were men knowledgable in the sciences of that era, astrology and astronomy. Magi were common in the court of kings to interpret dreams and provide “wisdom” based on their knowledge of the stars and universe. Their understanding of prophesy would have been second hand at best, yet there’s the possibility ancient magi were trained under Daniel during his captivity in Babylon. As a prisoner, Daniel came to serve under the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (605–562 B.C.) when he offered to interpret the king’s nightmare. Impressed, the king made him “chief of the magi”….where he would have had opportunity to share the prophesies of Jehovah. And, that training would have been passed down through the centuries within the magi trained by a servant of God. These prophesies would have been coupled with their understanding of the stars and geography of the region. Their arrival may have been days or a couple of years after Jesus’ birth. This is unknown. But they did seek to find him.

Disrespected shepherds and pagan astrologers who may have came to know the God of Israel. These were the Messiah’s first recorded visitors. Not exactly the cream of the crop of nobility and influence.

Don’t get me wrong. I love all things Christmas. I love the sparkly lights, Christmas trees, carols, decorating, gift giving….the whole nine yards!

But, perhaps our love affair with Christmas should be less about sparkly lights and tinsel, and more about the reality that God used the bare minimum of accommodations….the lowest and most disenfranchised of witnesses….unexpected types of “wise” men…to announce to the world that this king would be unlike any they’ve ever seen on every level.

May you have the light and hope of Christmas in your heart today and always.

 

Advent Spark

Annie at McGuffy’s Reader hosts a blog hop every Monday called Sparks. I’m finding that reading everyone’s “Sparks” is one of the highlights of my week. Her philosophy its simple:
The negative energy in the world has become thick and oppressive. Social media has become a part of this dark, negative storm. There is an obvious universal need for more positive energy and peace. And, we can all be part of this affirmative change.

My Spark today is a little long, but I hope you’ll take time to read it. Christians all over the world are in the final week of Advent….the period of waiting preceding the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. And, because it’s rather lengthy, there isn’t an accompanying photo today. But, even without a photo, the message still sparkles.

“God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.”
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

Also playing along with other awwww-inspiring photos with Sandee’s Awww Mondays at Comedy Plus.

Bridget avoids Cabo if at all possible, but there are times when she braves the consequences and takes her preferred position under the Christmas tree.

May you all have a sparkly holiday and make some awwwsome memories!

Be a Light in Dark Places

May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.
~J.R.R. Tolken, The Fellowship of the Ring

Our church created a Magic Tree from an 85-foot-high sycamore tree in our courtyard. It’s an awwwwsome sight to see in person, and I thought it fit perfectly as one of Anne’s Sparks as well as fitting well with Sandee’s Awwww Monday.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ~Matthew 5:16

There are 38 miles of lights on this tree, with 200,000 bulbs…representing each person in our county. The symbolism is each light reminds us of a person in our community that is precious in God’s sight.

As with each bulb on this tree, may we all strive to be points of light in the dark places of this world….especially when it looks like all the other lights are out. Our love can shine in the darkness and light the way.

Annie at McGuffy’s Reader hosts a blog hop every Monday called Sparks. I’m finding that reading everyone’s “Sparks” is one of the highlights of my week. Her philosophy its simple:

The negative energy in the world has become thick and oppressive. Social media has become a part of this dark, negative storm. There is an obvious universal need for more positive energy and peace. And, we can all be part of this affirmative change.

Also playing along with other awwww-inspiring photos with Sandee’s Awww Mondays at Comedy Plus.

 

December Photo Challenge: Tis the Season

photo blog challenge

Imagine my surprise when I realized December was almost over and I hadn’t written one word here since Dec. 7th! And now, it’s time again for PJ’s monthly photo challenge over at a ‘lil hoohaa. This month’s theme is, appropriately, Tis the Season.

Tis the Season for many things around here. Tis the Season for losing my mind with the holidayz…which can put a person in a daze. Tis the Season for birthdays…The Golfer and my Mama. Tis the Season for winter activities…bonfires and snowballs. And, Tis the Season for family.

So, here’s my five:

Tis the Season 1
Tis the Season for Christmas! This was the first year Twix was big enough to be the designated tree topper….much to Peanut’s dismay.
tis-the-season-1

Tis the Season 2
Tis the Season for Ho Ho Ho Hats. Last year, Twix was not very cooperative with the Santa hat….or any hat for that matter. This year, she couldn’t get enough of wearing it. Peanut is an old pro at this so capturing this shot was much easier this year.
tis-the-season-2

Tis the Season 3
Tis the Season to burn the brush pile in the backyard. This annual event usually takes place on the first snow so we don’t set the neighborhood on fire. Coincidentally, this year’s bonfire fell during the time when The Floridian golfer daughter was back in town for the holidays. Neighbors are invited so they don’t freak out when they see the flames. We try to make it a time to gather friends and family for “s’more” food and fun. 🙂
tis-the-season-3

Tis the Season 4
Tis the Season for a birthday for The Golfer from Florida. And since she was home, it was also time to try to capture both daughters and grand girls since they were all in one place.
tis-the-season-4

Tis the Season 5
And, finally, Tis the Season for family. A rare occurrence when we’re all together in one place at the same time.
tis-the-season-5

There’s my five for December. Don’t forget to visit PJ’s place on December 31st to see the other seasonal festivities.

 

December month in pictures

December 2015

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.
~Edith Sitwell

December was a mixed bag of events and emotions. Peanut, her mama and I started the month off on a high note with an evening at the theatre to see The Nutcracker (bottom left). Tree trimming and house decorating was somewhat of a challenge with an almost two-year-old underfoot….everything is sooooo fascinating and must be touched and held (bottom right). Taking the ornaments out is always a nostalgic trip down memory lane for me. The photo in the top right of the collage is part of a set of six angels my family had when I was a child. My sister has three and I have three. I believe they are at least 40 years old by now, but I have no idea how old we were when our parents bought them.

The grandbabykins are changing before our eyes. Twix is no longer that unsteady toddler of last year. Almost two years old now, she is becoming quite verbal and extremely aware of everything around her. But, she still doesn’t ride in the car for long trips very well, and we’ve pushed our luck a few times with quick trips to Kansas City and Branson…and paid dearly.

About mid month, the smaller of The Golfer’s the two kitties (who live with us), Midget, developed serious breathing issues again. Earlier in the summer, I gave her regimens of antibiotics and a round of subcuticular IV solution injections for dehydration. The last ditch effort was steroids, which worked for a while. But she took a turn for the worse again, and we made the gut-wrenching decision to not put her through any more drugs or treatments. And I do mean gut. wrenching. decision…at least it was for me. Her sister, Bridget, didn’t come out from under the Christmas tree for about a week and still seems a bit lost.

santa and kidsAnd let’s not forget the Christmas shopping. Even when I thing I’m ahead of the game, it never fails that the last week before Christmas I find myself running around the stores like a crazy woman. Just once I’d like to be completely finished before Thanksgiving so I could actually enjoy the holidays, stress-shopping free. Peanut and Twix did make a trip to see the jolly elf. Twix was quite taken with him…from afar.

Did I get everything done to achieve that perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas? Not even close. The Christmas spirit eluded me most of the month for various reasons. I wish I could bring my expectations down a few notches so I don’t get disappointed when plans don’t go perfectly. But we did spend time with family on both sides, Santa did come, and we were reminded on Christmas Eve of the beautiful gift of grace that was given so many years ago.

All in all, the holidays were good. We have a lot to be thankful for, and I’m working on appreciating what I have in the here and now instead of thinking how things could/should be different. We had good food and our home was warmed with the laughter of children. We took comfort with the blessings of friends and family throughout the month and I really can’t ask for anything more.

I hope you all had wonderful holidays with treasured memories. I plan to put all my collages into one post soon, and am looking forward to seeing our year’s recap in photos. Hope you’ll share it with me.

Participating in A Month of Pictures over at Mona’s Picturesque.

 

 

 

Photo Challenge: Holidays

photo blog challenge

PJ’s theme for December was….you guessed it….Holidays. Although the Christmas spirit sort of eluded me a bit this year, I was able to find quite a lot of opportunities to capture Christmas at our house. It was difficult to select but here are my five, plus one extra because the collage template needed a sixth photo. 🙂

blog challenge-Christmas2015

May you have the spirit of Christmas which is Peace,
The gladness of Christmas which is Hope,
And the heart of Christmas which is Love.

My hope is that you will carry the gifts of Peace, Hope and Love in your heart not just during the holidays, but throughout the year. And please stop by and see PJ at A ‘lil’ HooHaa to see what holidays others celebrated this month.