Tag Archives: Christmas

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?

Thankfulness after Thanksgiving

Have you already decorated your Christmas tree(s)?

Not me. Pumpkins, fall leaves and acorns still adorn my fireplace mantels and front door.

This decorating delay doesn’t indicate inefficiency on my part — perish the thought! It does reflect autumn’s short season. Thanksgiving items are placed on clearance before kids trick-or-treat.

Given that many hate winter, why do we forget fall so fast? Why not linger in Thanksgiving Land?

It was wild and wonderful, wasn’t it?

Even if I had to shovel out spare rooms and wash sheets.

Even if wrestling the defiant turkey into the oven resembled a Friday Night SmackDown sans tights and sparkles.

Even if appliances didn’t feel blessed. Our disposal rebelled Thanksgiving morning. Worse, our oven adopted a relativistic philosophy, insisting if its controls read “350,” the actual 500-degree temperature was irrelevant.

Even if, having stocked up on dark meat because we ran out last year, I was asked if our turkey was a mutant. Ditto for yeast rolls that resembled trolls.

Even if drains and conversations occasionally clogged.

And I can’t pretend I have six months to Christmas shop. …

Still, with four generations feasting and sharing gratitude to God, our Thanksgiving was a blessed celebration.

Admittedly, the grandchildren’s sugar energy levels could have endangered not only our house, but the entire city block. Thankfully, we all defused at a large community room I’d rented.

No one sent the Monopoly game airborne when he landed on Boardwalk with hotels.

Everyone ate mutant turkey and rolls.

Not only was there enough pie for all 17 diners, plenty remained for Grandma and Grandpa’s post-host-survival celebration.

Despite that, I still can zip my jeans! — and ignore nasty online pop-ups advertising tent-sized attire for New Year’s Eve.

Bottom line: Our family arrived safely, rejoiced, loved, and gave thanks together, then returned home, grateful to again sleep in their own beds.

Can such a rich celebration be considered a mere practice run?

We can correct whatever went wrong at Thanksgiving to improve Christmas gatherings. Hosts can repair the carbonizing oven and replace air mattresses that flattened overnight. Hubby watched a YouTube video that helped him fix the disposal. I might even practice making rolls that look like … rolls.

Image by Richard Duijnstee from Pixabay.

Soon autumn decorations in our home will give way to poinsettias, evergreens and jingle bells. A Christmas tree will grace our living room window.

But thanksgiving won’t be packed away until next November.

I pray it saturates my Christmas season … and New Year’s … and Easter 2024 … and …

Image by Deborah Hudson from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your reasons for thanksgiving, even after Thanksgiving?

It’s November?! No, No, No!

Image by 422737 from Pixabay.

I panicked when an entire summer passed, and I hadn’t fulfilled my dream of eating 100 sundaes at Ivanhoe’s, a local den of temptation. When I realized I hadn’t gotten up close and personal with every mosquito in Indiana. Just 97 percent of them.

But now, October is history?

A growing list of non-accomplishments assail me at 2 a.m. Having dreamed that Mr. Clean®, the Ty·D·Bol Man and my mother banished me to the Grungy Galaxy, I realize I haven’t completed even last spring’s gotta-do household list. I haven’t washed windows, whereas Mom never permitted one streak on hers. I haven’t eliminated chaos from closets or grime from the garage.

Nor have I winterized yard and garden. Hubby has mulched our leaves so far, but I haven’t shoveled compost, trimmed blackberry bushes or planted more daffodils. My bulbs and bushes still crave smelly fertilizers.

I’ve failed to keep my mums alive until Thanksgiving. Who designated them the official fall flower, anyway? Mums are scientifically timed to expire when they touch my porch, a ruse to force me to buy more.

We haven’t yet stored our lawn furniture, but rust and the distressed look are in. That works. My furniture is distressed because it belongs to me.

Image by pixel1 from Pixabay.

By now, greedy chocolate-peanut butter addicts have gobbled up 50-percent-off Reese’s pumpkins which, by divine right, should be all mine! Mine, I tell you!

Despite that sad situation, I haven’t accomplished the preholiday weight loss that I, in a fit of insanity induced by doctor’s scales, pledged months ago.

As if all that woulda-coulda-shoulda trauma isn’t sufficient, November 1 triggers nationwide panic.

In women, I mean. Men generally suffer panic attacks only if dinner’s late.

Image by 46173 from Pixabay.

I refer to pre-Christmas angst. Rumblings begin with family councils pondering who can celebrate when and where if Andy’s team doesn’t make finals, gas prices drop and nobody dies. Maybe our family can combine Christmas and Super Bowl Sunday.

In November, catalogs pile up in mailboxes. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Tacky Tuesday ads stuff email and ping like popcorn on computer screens.

Image by Wolfgang Eckert from Pixabay.

I begin the annual search for on-sale presents I bought in January 2023 and hid in safe places.

I won’t rediscover them until hiding sales gifts from January 2024 in safe places.

It’s November.

No, no, no amount of denial will change that.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How does November affect you?

January: Love It? Hate It?

Image by Julita from Pixabay.
Image by Enirehtacess from Pixabay.

Some welcomed 2023 with the same enthusiasm as author Jerry Spinelli: “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.”

Contrariwise, author Roald Dahl would “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.”

Thankfully, neither works for a calendar company. But their clash illustrates typical debate.

Image by Alexey Marcov from Pixabay.

My highly scientific poll, based on Walmart eavesdropping, suggests that in January, most shoppers wilt like post-Christmas poinsettias.

Snow-lovers gripe because The Weather Channel sent only flurries. Snow-haters grouse because blizzards lurk behind every cloud. Kids hate January because they return to school. Babies, imprisoned in snowsuits Grandma gave for Christmas, raise loud protests.

Besides, everyone’s broke.

We’re all on diets.

Many people really hate January.

Quiet January was one of Mom’s favorite months.

My mother, a pastor’s wife, loved it. Her Christmas responsibilities ranged from distributing food baskets to ensuring no shepherd in her pageant picked his nose. Plus, we children assumed Mom would make Christmas dreams come true … without money.

Though she loved Jesus supremely, Mom thanked Him when His birthday party was done.

I, too, savor January’s serenity. Time for unhurried worship of the Christ who dared enter our crazy world. A hot-soup-homemade-bread aura helps us settle down and settle in to savor good books. For Hoosier authors, January’s excellent writing weather. (How do unlucky novelists in the Bahamas finish anything?)

Mom and I have passed January preferences to my Michigan grandson. He, however, loves shrieking forays down the highest sledding hills.

Hubby’s the only basketball fanatic in our family … not.

My husband and other sports fans welcome January because they wallow in basketball. Mourn losses. Decimate January peace with insane celebrations.

January also gave the world distinguished citizens: Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin and Joan of Arc. Betty White, James Earl Jones, Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hopefully, their birthday presents weren’t wrapped in leftover Christmas paper.

If this January sends snow, I’ll welcome snowflake kisses. Swish snow angels. Sled with my grandson, shrieking all the way down, “Jesus … he-e-e-elp!”

Then do it again.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.
Image by Public Domain Pictures from Pixabay.

Sorry, Roald Dahl. I’ll never vote these days off the calendar.

John Steinbeck reminds us: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”

Though, Charles Spurgeon offers even better advice: “Let January open with joy in the Lord.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Why do you like or dislike January?

Of Blessed Barbarians and Baby Jesus

Image by Case Newton from Pixabay.

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 2-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.

“Gwandma! Gwandpa!”

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

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 once enjoyed.

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

Our little blonde goddess knew she ruled our universe.

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.

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.

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.

“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.”

Image by schuylkillcountyink from Pixabay.

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

Classic Post: Christmas Tree Chronicles

This post first appeared on December 2, 2020.

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.

Or you procured a Charlie Brown escapee or spent precious dollars on a Salvation Army find.

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

However, 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 47 Christmases, still shine.

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