Monthly Archives: December 2023

Classic Post: Of Blessed Barbarians and Baby Jesus

Image by Case Newton from Pixabay.

This post first appeared on December 28, 2022.

Years ago, my husband and I prepared for a barbarian invasion.

We hid valuables. We said prayers. We kept watch, knowing they’d sweep away our well-ordered lives.

They came.

We charged outside … and retrieved the world’s most beloved barbarians, our two-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.

Baby allowed us to cuddle, but his mind was fixed on his search-and-destroy mission.

“Gwandma! Gwandpa!”

Baby immediately yanked our books from shelves. When we interrupted, he reacted with a type A personality’s outrage.

His sister flipped light switches. “On! Off!” The little blonde goddess obviously controlled the universe.

Time to civilize barbarians — a little. We played with blocks, love-worn stuffed animals and an ancient Fisher-Price parking garage our children enjoyed.

The grandchildren zoomed cars down the ramp, cheering wipeouts. The scene reminded me of Christmas parking lots. And (shiver!) future 16th birthdays.

This parking garage has entertained our three children and all seven grandchildren. Like Grandma and Grandpa, its parts creak and groan, but it still works.

I offered a Nativity set with soft finger puppets. Baby happily crawled around with Wise Men in his mouth. Retrieving bowls from my cabinets, his sister made imaginary applesauce for the Nativity crew.

Peace on earth reigned.

Too soon, they had to leave. Hubby and I helped their parents search for bag, bottles, coats.

Our little blonde goddess knew she ruled our universe.

We wanted to send the Nativity set home with them, an early Christmas present. Hopefully, gnawing the Wise Men would keep Baby quiet during the trip. Mary and Joseph bore evidence Little Girl had found real applesauce for their dinner party. We corralled animals, angels and shepherds.

Where was Baby Jesus?

Hubby sifted through the toy box again. I scanned refrigerator shelves, hoping Little Girl hadn’t decided Jesus needed air-conditioning.

“Is Jesus in the parking garage?” I yelled to Hubby.

Not a question I’d ever expected to ask during my lifetime.

Shaking my head as I raised the toilet lid, I hoped He wouldn’t be floating in a not-so-sanitary Sea of Galilee. No, but new anxiety seized me. Had someone flushed Him?

“I’ll find Jesus and mail Him,” I promised.

But I’d wanted our grandchildren to get to know Him during Christmas.

I dove under furniture again and discovered Baby Jesus behind the stereo.

“How did He end up there?” Our daughter dusted Him off.

I shrugged. “Who knows? Jesus sometimes turns up in the oddest places.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did Jesus show up during your Christmas season?

Classic Post: Miracle Morning Sickness

Image by Eukalyptus from Pixabay.

This post first appeared on December 22, 2021.

Unlike Mary, Jesus’s mother, and Zechariah, John the Baptist’s dad, my husband and I didn’t see angels when we learned we would be parents. Medical tests one December confirmed our first child was under construction. Our Christmas miracle.

Other confirmations seemed less wonderful. Entering Grandma’s kitchen Christmas morning, I nearly fainted. The fragrance of spareribs, usually mouth-watering, spun my stomach onto a Tilt-A-Whirl ride.

Soon my waistline and feet vanished. One guy, playing a game at my couples’ shower, guessed my belly diameter measured seven feet. He shouldn’t have lived to procreate. Because his wife was my friend, I allowed it.

Given pregnancy and delivery, how does the human race continue?

Yet, according to Dr. Luke’s biblical account, devout, elderly Zechariah and Elizabeth longed for that miracle. Marginalized because of infertility, they’d lost hope.

Then Gabriel, an angel, appeared to the freaked-out priest, proclaiming they’d have a son.

Even an angel couldn’t convince Zechariah. Still, as Elizabeth’s baby bump swelled, his faith grew.

Meanwhile, Gabriel visited teenaged Mary in Nazareth and greeted her as the soon-to-be mother of the Messiah.

Image by dodo71 from Pixabay.

Mary was engaged, not married. She hadn’t been with Joseph or anyone else. This intruder was delusional, maybe dangerous. If I’d been Mary, I would’ve called 911.

Instead, she believed he came from God. Mary offered herself to whatever He had in store.

Gabriel also said Elizabeth was pregnant too.

This, Mary had to see. Had Gabriel shared God’s truth? Or was that stranger crazier than she?

When big-bellied Elizabeth greeted Mary as the mother of her Lord, Mary’s festering doubts disappeared.

Elizabeth knew. Mary didn’t have to explain. Or hide.

Image by gamagapix from Pixabay.

The pregos could tell their stories without boring each other. They could gripe about swelling feet. They agreed that neither could stand spareribs.

Both, however, had developed cravings for pickled goat. If Zechariah balked at buying it, Mary would.

God gave those women each other. Elizabeth could face people asking if John was her grandson. Mary could go home to her parents. Face Joseph. Face rabbis who might throw rocks.

Our daughter’s first Christmas. She made the spareribs worth it.

Mary would need more miracles. Thankfully, God wasn’t finished yet.

Because Mary accepted stressing along with blessing, Jesus came and redeemed humankind.

Today, His miracles also may include not-so-spiritual complications, some nastier than morning sickness. Some, dreams come true.

He’s not finished yet.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you think He will work in 2024?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Party On!

Father, when this group of old friends gathered for our annual Christmas luncheon, we felt ancient.

Maybe because I gifted each–including me!–with a lighted magnifying glass?

But OMG, even decades of friendship can’t compare with our someday forever party with You!

A Different Christmas

Do your holidays cooperate? Occasionally, Christmas thumbs its Rudolph-red nose at me. Sometimes, though, it’s simply different.

In 1958, my family celebrated Christmas in our Mexican mission compound with a bare-limbed, thorny bush.

We dogmatic preschoolers protested, “That’s not a Christmas tree!”

Image by Alexander Kliem from Pixabay.
At a park for Christmas 2020.

With spun-glass angel hair, that odd, but lovely tree and borrowed Nativity introduced a different celebration. Hot-air balloons and fireworks lit the nights. Instead of dime-store trinkets, I received a wooden doll bed made by our handyman. My nine-months-pregnant mother, while sewing baby blankets, made doll versions from scraps. We ate weird sweets. We watched village children scramble for candy showered from a clay piñata my blindfolded dad smacked.

Strange for a five-year-old far from her Indiana home — but what wasn’t to like about candy and presents?

Although, if we’d spent Christmas in Austria, the celebration might have seemed less merry. Masked ghouls, representing Krampus, St. Nicholas’s evil counterpart, stalk city streets, shaking sticks at bad children. Scary for a kid who, despite missionary roots, pushed her little sister around.

Hot chocolate helped keep us warm.

Nearly meatless in Mexico, my family and I would have embraced the Japanese tradition of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Day.

However, I wouldn’t have savored South Africans’ holiday delicacy: deep-fried Emperor Moth caterpillars.

Bereft of television in Mexico, I would’ve welcomed Sweden’s Christmas Eve tradition: watching vintage clips of Donald Duck. According to one American visiting future Swedish in-laws, nothing can disturb this sacred ritual.

We all have holiday expectations. My missionary family was no exception. We didn’t want a different Christmas!

Grandpa watched the fun.

I didn’t want a different Christmas during 2020, either. I wanted normal, when our children and grandchildren filled the house.

Yet that odd Mexican holiday’s sights and sounds linger, 65 years later.

My parents treasured them too, despite hard times. Mom delivered my 12-pound brother at home.

Dad, who broke the clay piñata with his forehead, suspected villagers controlling it had intentionally smacked the gringo. Despite major headaches and self-taught Spanish, Dad pioneered a church.

The beautiful, thorny Christmas tree embodied that beautiful, thorny year.

Appropriate for followers of a Savior who experienced thorny years.

Image by S. Greendragon from Pixabay.
Even COVID couldn’t stop us from enjoying a special Christmas.

In 2020, Christmas was different.

We Zoomed gatherings. Met family in a park for masked Christmas walks. Pantomimed hugs.

Different. Thorny.

But Christmas 2020 was good.

One I will never forget.

Image by James Chan from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What unique Christmas sticks in your mind?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: When I Try to Help God


O Lord, recently, I saw a preschooler “help” her father unload items at checkout. The little girl worked diligently, but squished a loaf of bread. I tensed, expecting frowns. Impatience. Yelling. Instead, Daddy thanked her for her help. OMG, that’s so like You. When I offer eager, squishy-bread obedience, You smile. 

Sentimental about the Sixties?

Image by Vika Glitter from Pixabay.

I gave my brother a sweatshirt for his 70th birthday that read, “I survived the ’60s twice!”

I, too, grew up during that decade. Younger people believe we are close to our expiration dates. Past them, actually, but no one’s noticed yet.

I miss some aspects of the 1960s.

First, I was considered too skinny. Bread and butter sprinkled with sugar would help me grow up healthy and strong. Sigh.

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

The media consisted of print, radio, television and vinyl. They never eavesdropped.

Television variety show performers sang and danced without votes, masks or Simon. Cheesy sitcoms dominated, but aren’t harmless, stupid shows like Mr. Ed better than harmful, stupid ones?

Parents could rubber-stamp Disney productions as appropriate.

Gas station attendants pumped gas, cleaned windshields and fixed more than a hot dog. Plus, gas cost 25.9 cents per gallon.

Image by Falkenpost from Pixabay.

During phone calls, we spoke with other human beings.

Nobody locked doors in our small town. Schools and churches remained open. Security codes and guards? Unknown.

Recently, I visited my former school band director, now an octogenarian. We marveled that after summer practices, we often hiked through cornfields to the woods — no permission slips required.

Mr. C. didn’t lead assertion or feel-good sessions. Unlike my daughter, who said if she had to watch one more self-esteem video, she’d puke, I didn’t receive fire hose doses of you-must-believe-this.

Image by Jo Justino from Pixabay.

However, my brain hasn’t expired to the point that I don’t recall negatives during the 1960s.

I could wear slacks only at home. Girls wore dresses even to ball games.

I don’t miss bright blue eye shadow. Or white lipstick.

Smoking was restricted … nowhere. Children even “smoked” candy cigarettes.

I remember KKK recruitment signs in restaurants. A Caucasian never served an African American.

What Boomer doesn’t recall being slathered with Vicks® VapoRub™? Also, injured klutzes like me wore orange Mercurochrome like war paint. A small side note: Mercurochrome contained mercury.

I don’t miss Vietnam. And assassinations du jour.

Image by svs72 from Pixabay.
Image by AbouYassin from Pixabay.

Jell-O in flavors like tomato and celery.

Toni® home permanents and brush rollers.

Because of nuclear testing, we were forbidden to eat snowflakes. Get-under-your-desk drills for nuclear emergencies seemed odd, even then.

Finally, working out consisted of using machines to “shake off” fat.

Actually, that might be nice.

Right before a snack of bread and butter, sprinkled with sugar.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What decade makes you feel sentimental and why?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: My Goofs, His Grace

O Lord, I remembered my name today, but apparently forgot to add that final cup of flour to the cookies. Thank You that my eternal destiny does not depend on turning out a perfect recipe — of any kind. OMG, how I celebrate Your love and forgiveness through Jesus!