Tag Archives: Christmas

“Fear Not” — Are You Kidding Me?

(Note: I wrote this piece in 2019, with no idea of what lay ahead. Reviewing it, I thought it might prove even more relevant for Christmas 2020.) 

Children nowadays text Santa with requests. Some use PowerPoint presentations. (“Last year, you brought a baby brother instead of a puppy. Seriously, Santa, you and Amazon Prime really messed up.”)  

Yet, up-close-and-personal encounters continue as children assure Santa they’ve been good. He probably doesn’t do background checks, because even mean kids make out like Christmas bandits.

The majority, however, look scared.

Reading storybooks on Mommy’s lap about jolly St. Nick felt cozy and familiar.

Sitting on a big, bearded hippie’s lap doesn’t. Children inform the entire mall this wasn’t their idea. The only photos taken feature close-ups of tonsils. Or kids’ calling Uber for a ride to Bongo Bongo.

Yet loving grown-ups assure them, “Don’t be afraid.”

They’d never endanger children. Even hired Santas probably would have found easier work — like digging ditches — if they didn’t care about kids.

The children are safe. Cherished.

I find similar, odd “fear nots” in the biblical Christmas story.

When the angel Gabriel told Mary about her impossible pregnancy. When another urged Joseph to marry her, carrying a Child not his. When shepherds hit the ground before a regiment of angels. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had real reasons to be afraid.

These strange visitors weren’t wearing wings and halos from Dollar Tree. Seeing genuine angels today while shoveling snow or brewing coffee — who wouldn’t set Olympic records for the 10-mile dash?

Besides, the angels’ words smacked of the revolutionary.    

In Mary’s culture, a woman pregnant with a supposedly illegitimate Child might be stoned.  A man who married her would bear her stigma, affecting relationships and his job. Having left flocks untended, the shepherds also might lose their meager livelihood.

Worse, the angels proclaimed the Baby was a King. Paranoid Herod, who killed family members, considered that high treason. Also, Romans readily crucified anyone who didn’t worship Caesar.

Crazy times. Terrible times. Yet God’s message rang out: “Fear not.”

Today, we want to call Uber and escape this scary mess. Go to Bongo Bongo. Or Neptune.

Adult Jesus did, too. He knew His enemies would kill him. Yet, His life vibrated with that theme: “Fear not.”

Jesus could have blown away his foes. Instead, He used His murder to pay for human sin. Then, He laughed at death — that thing we fear most — and rose again.

Jesus wants us to know if we believe in Him, we are safe. Now. Forever. Loved. Cherished.

“Fear not.”

He wasn’t kidding Mary, Joseph or the shepherds. He isn’t kidding us, either. Or our children and grandchildren bawling on Santa’s lap.

Joy and peace to you this Christmas.

Really.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you trusting Jesus for 2021 — and your forever?

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:16 NIV

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Crazy Christmases

O Lord, not a normal Christmas! We exchanged gifts with family, not around our Christmas tree, but met in a park we’d never seen before. Sharing fervent, but distanced love and hot chocolate to combat chilly Michigan weather helped, but — crazy!

What’s that? OMG, of course, You’re right. The first Christmas was pretty crazy, too.

Easy Christmas Shopping? Ho, Ho, Ho!

We veteran Christmas shoppers have seen it all.

We’ve fought kamikaze traffic and circled malls 250 times, searching for parking in the same zip code. We’ve donned body armor to survive elbowing crowds. Defied Klingon clerks who wanted to beam us to Kronos.

During one holiday shopping trip, two scary grandmas in my line battled about who was ahead. Would they take out everyone else, too?

Enter online shopping, the answer to desperate prayers. Especially in 2020.

Image by Alexas Fotos from Pixabay.

No traffic. No higher-than-Santa’s-sleigh gasoline costs. No sore feet — unless we type with toes.

I generate Christmas atmosphere for online shopping by concocting a Christmas playlist, donning my loudest holiday sweater and drinking hot chocolate from my favorite Christmas mug. Christmas candles smell like pine … or Pine-Sol®?

Regardless, I pull out credit cards. My password list. Ready. Set. Shop!

My laptop’s crankier than a teen at 8 a.m. on Saturday. When I threaten it with a pitcher of cold water, the laptop finally cooperates. Sort of.

It sends me to the Malwart website, rather than Walmart. (Nothing to do with my spelling, you understand.) A pop-up offers the Garfield beach towel my grandson covets for only $471. When I purchase a puppy-kitty storybook instead, the website informs me other customers who bought this book also purchased “The Preschool Guide to Overthrowing the Government.”

Weary of children’s gifts, I peruse flannel shirts for my son. Surely, with 83,259,441,701 advertised online, I can find one. But 83,259,441,700 are size XXXXX Large.

My son could fit in a sleeve.

Wait. I see it!

The solitary size large, un-girly plaid shirt is in stock! But it can be sent only to Madagascar by Christmas. If sent to Indianapolis, it will arrive on February 29, 2024. If I pay extra.

My laptop emits a distinct chuckle.

Grrr. But if I use the pitcher of water, I’ll have to beg use of Hubby’s laptop. He’s busy ordering camping equipment — my Christmas gifts to him?

I may wait until Valentine’s Day.

Desperate, I return to pricing Garfield beach towels. Three others cost $500 apiece, so I grab the bargain at $471. Using the promotion code BANKRUPT, I owe only $470.12. Surely, this gift qualifies for free shipping. But no, I must spend only $203.77 more. So, I buy a bag of flour.

Image by Daniela Mackova from Pixabay.

I miss pre-Internet shop owners, humanoids who said, “May I help you?” and did.

So, I join other masked shoppers in real stores. Remembering those two scary grandmas, I imagine they’re not Internet shopping. They’re still pushing and shoving to be first.

Other shoppers and I will watch — from a distance.

Maybe we should bring along pitchers of ice water?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you prefer online or traditional shopping?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Miracle Morning Sickness

O Lord, You and I both recall the Christmas I carried my first child — a blessed miracle. However, the smell of Grandma’s traditional Christmas spareribs sent my stomach spinning like a Tilt-a-Whirl®. Not so wonderful. OMG, Mary, who probably traveled to Bethlehem while in early labor, knew what tough miracles were all about.  

   

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: No Tracking Needed

O, Lord, I hope all the gifts I ordered arrive on time. Um … exactly what did I order? But OMG, when You sent the greatest Gift of all, Your Son, You knew exactly what You’d given. You got Him in the right place at the right time — even without Amazon Prime.

Christmas Tree Chronicles

Do you remember that first Christmas tree you, as an adult, hauled home?

Maybe you and your beloved cut a fragrant evergreen at a Christmas tree farm amid silvery snowfall.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

Or you procured a Charlie Brown escapee. Maybe spent a precious dollar on a Salvation Army find.

I wish we, as newlyweds, had considered those alternatives. We had saved $50 for Christmas. Total. We possessed no lights or ornaments. We spent our bankroll on family gifts instead.

However, learning of our treeless holiday, neighbors offered bottom branches removed from theirs. Humming “Deck the Halls,” I accented the pine-scented boughs with little red balls.

Voilà! Christmas!

The next year, I vowed to have a tree, though possibly decorated with popcorn strings and spray-painted macaroni — and the red balls.

My sister-in-law to the rescue: “Why didn’t you tell us you needed Christmas stuff? Mom gave us bunches.”

How I celebrated that tree in our government-subsidized apartment! We’d never go without one again — though some Decembers proved more adventurous than others.

Later, when Hubby was training day and night at a hospital, I stuffed our Christmas tree into our only car’s trunk.

Whew! Now to drag it downstairs to our basement apartment. Except, where were my keys?

With the tree. In the trunk.

Did I mention I was pregnant?

After a grand tour per city bus, I finally arrived at Hubby’s hospital. They paged him: “Dr. Phillips. Dr. Phillips. Your wife locked her keys in the car. Please report to the front desk.”

He displayed zero Christmas spirit, but he handed me his keys. After another city tour, I drove myself and the tree home.

Little did I know what Christmas tree tribulations awaited me as a parent.

The following year, Hubby and I set up the tree in our daughter’s playpen.

Why didn’t we corral her instead?

Child-raising theories then advocated free-range offspring. No dastardly playpen for our baby.

As our family expanded, Christmas ideals shrank to survival for us, the kids, and the tree. Trying to hide it from rampaging toddlers, we moved the tree to different locations each year. All in vain. Our son’s destructo gene zeroed in. I covered the tree’s lower branches with harmless ornaments, hoping he would eat those.

He climbed it.

To this day, I don’t know if our son consumed broken ornaments. He is 30-plus now, so I guess the destructo gene was linked to another granting him an iron stomach.

This year, our empty-nest tree mostly fears my smacking it with the vacuum. With no inkling of its predecessors’ sufferings, it basks in gentle serenity, glowing with lights, tinsel and memories.

Unnoticed, little red balls, polished by 45 Christmases, still shine.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What Christmas-tree tale can you tell?

Weird Things for Which I Am Thankful 2020

Anyone here like Christmas better than Thanksgiving?

With God’s incredible gift of His Son, family celebrations, music, decorations and food, it doesn’t get any better than that.

But families also express gratitude for each other at Thanksgiving, for freedom, health and — last, but not least — hope through Christ. Along with the food, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m forced to enjoy a draw, nixing healthy eating until a January Judgment Day.

I also want to express gratitude for little blessings — even weird ones — that seldom receive a nod or notice:

Fuzzy bathroom rugs. These don’t rank up there with world peace or an Indianapolis Colts victory, but on chilly mornings, they mean everything to wet, freezing toes.

Combines blocking the road. Already late, I forget these are a blessing. Other drivers’ gestures indicate they forget, too. But these bulky, balky monsters and hardworking farmers ensure food on our tables.

Bananas. With this nutritious, easy-open, eco-friendly fruit — no refrigeration necessary — our children thrived. True, bananas’ squishability, the babies’ sticky reaches and my long hair proved problematic. Still, they blessed lunch boxes and trips. When emergencies interrupted my skinny physician husband’s meals, I sent bananas with him to eat on the way.

Today, neither of us worry about weight loss. Still, we’re glad bananas will be around for our future, with or without teeth.

The color purple. What would we do without purple violets and irises, plums and eggplants? Without royal velvets and wild purple storm clouds — and essentials like Grape Slushies and Super Bubble Gum?

My 2010 car. New models map routes, parallel park and warm butts. Some drivers, though, given a Starship Enterprise dashboard, threaten the universe. Even driving my old Ford, I’ve occasionally popped the hood when I meant to open the trunk. If I tried to warm my posterior while driving 70 miles per hour, I’d hit the parallel parking mechanism.

I’m thankful for my simple, old car. You should be, too.

Ranch dressing, available only since the 1980s. How did we as a civilization survive without it?

Free parking lots. Metropolitan drivers spend hundreds to park in scary garages. I revel in nearly unlimited free parking, saving my neck, my bucks and my sanity.

Bankers without firearms. I’ve entered Honduran banks where guards accessorized with ammunition belts and machine guns. I’m thankful my bankers are armed only with smiles.

Gardeners who plant prairie grass. They validate those of us who grow it unintentionally.

Finally, I’m thankful I never played the turkey in a school production.

Still debating whether you like Thanksgiving or Christmas most? It’s a draw, right?

A draw for the turkey, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Can you list weird things for which you’re thankful?

Baby Jesus’ Christmas Portrait

Wishing you a blessed Christmas as I share this painting by my late mother, Betty Oglesbee. Largely untaught, Mom understood there was much more to newborn Jesus than just a cute baby!

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and … to reconcile to himself all things … through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20






Big Bear

When our daughter was born, I splurged on a pink teddy bear whose music box played tinkling lullabies.

I placed it in her line of vision. “Honey, she’s singing to you.”

Baby appeared more interested in shiny doorknobs.

Even as she grew, she took little notice of the prissy teddy.

Several years later, her kindergarten class planned to celebrate Teddy Bear Day, bringing their little buddies to school.

When I suggested Callie take her prissy teddy, she rolled her eyes, but hauled the bear in her backpack.

After school, an odd sight met my eyes. An enormous teddy bear ambled toward me, underscored by thin, little legs.

“Big Bear wanted to come home with me,” Callie explained.

“But — it doesn’t belong to you.”

“Teacher said we could exchange bears for a week. Sarah took mine, and she let me take him.”

Big Bear made himself at home in Callie’s appliance-box house. He starred in made-up plays and musicals. At bedtime check, I did a double take.

Twins in Callie’s bed?

I often messed up carpools. Had I lost track of how many children I’d birthed?

No, Big Bear was bunking with her. Relief poured through me, relief that soon vanished as her tiny arm curled possessively around his large, furry body.

Soon, I had to say, “Honey, Big Bear has to go home.”

Callie stared at me with sad, dark eyes, but returned him.

Christmas was coming soon. Usually, the Santa at our house frowned on extravagant gifts. But when I encountered Big Bear’s cousin at Kmart, I brought him home.

Hiding him from Callie was like concealing a body from the FBI, but the wide-eyed grin that greeted him Christmas morning made Operation Big Bear worth it. In no time, he was singing in basement Broadway productions and snuggling with Callie at night. He smiled from her bed every day.

When she married, Big Bear moved with her to her new home.

One recent weekend, Callie’s ferret-fast son and I were engaged in a pillow fight. Desperate for ammunition, I grabbed the nearest soft object.

Big Bear.

My opponent took gross advantage of my surprise and knocked me flat. Big Bear, ever the sympathizer, stayed by me.

Despite a missing eye, Big Bear had survived little-boy love and numerous pillow wars. Judging by his purple-stained face, someone must have fed him jelly doughnuts — which explained why he appeared as flabby as I. He’d lost padding, though, which I’d found. Not fair.

Still, Big Bear’s presence was strangely comforting. Did Callie — now a strong, loving woman — still sneak moments with him?

Kindergartner, teenager, mom or grandma. Sometimes, we all need a Big Bear hug.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you still cherish a childhood stuffed animal?