Tag Archives: Holidays

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: from Love to Love

O Lord, don’t You think going directly from Christmas decorations to Valentine’s Day hearts makes sense? After all, both holidays are rooted in Your love. (And, OMG, maybe You could help Hubby take the hint about chocolates?)

Classic Post: The Perfect Christmas Tree?

This post first appeared on December 9, 2015.

Ask a thousand people to describe what makes a perfect Christmas tree.

You’ll receive 966 rapturous — and opinionated — answers.

What about the other four? A few Christmas-tree-impaired people don’t get it. My father, who loved trees, saw no sense in chopping down an evergreen, hauling it inside, and decorating it with expensive baubles.

Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay.

Fortunately, Mom overruled him. Because of Dad’s reluctance to contribute, though, we celebrated with a tree that looked as if it had been mugged by a Grinchy Weed eater. But Mom filled our tree’s gaps with strategic placement of greeting cards. We decorated with our scanty string of big-bulb lights, the ornaments we and our pets hadn’t yet broken, plus glittery Sunday school paper bells and stars. We draped random garlands of popcorn and, as a finishing touch, tossed on wads of shiny icicles. Finally, we gathered outside the picture window, shivering and marveling at the most perfect tree in the world.

With my background, I am not choosy. I always allowed Hubby and the children to select our tree. If it appeared undernourished, we dangled extra ornaments and strategically placed large greeting cards á la Grandma. If its lower layers stuck out too much, I sympathized, as mine tend to do that around Christmas, too.

Image by Meelina from Pixabay.

On the other hand, my husband makes great tree choices. While flexible, he insists upon one stipulation: the tree’s trunk must be straight, as in a perfect ninety-degree angle to the ground. No leaning, even if it’s a little tired of the holidays.

I only ask that the tree look fresh and green. No yellow needles. And they must cling to the branches like a scared-of-Santa toddler to his mommy. Please, no needles scattered abroad, their prickly presence lodged forever in my socks, sweaters and undies.

Although we miss the kids, our empty nest simplifies the selection process. Hubby, measuring trunk angles with a protractor, will get his Christmas tree wish. I, giving each one the super-shake test, will too. We’ll haul home a fresh, green tree with a straight trunk.

Our straight and fresh Christmas tree.

So far, we’ve never found a flawless one. But that makes sense. Advent is all about God’s coming because we — and our world — are flawed. A Christmas tree reminds us what He can do with imperfection.

After we’ve decorated our tree, I will drag Hubby outdoors by the picture window and force him to enjoy the view.

“It’s straight,” he’ll say proudly.

“Yes, isn’t it?” I’ll answer as we hold each other close in the darkness, shivering with delight.

No, our tree is not perfect. But it’s the most beautiful tree in the world.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What makes your tree the most beautiful in the world?

Classic Post: Weird Things for Which I’m Thankful

This post first appeared on November 22, 2017.

No doubt, our Creator appreciates gratitude for freedom to worship Him, for family, friends, food and shelter. But my cornucopia also bursts with weird things for which I am thankful, including:

Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay.

Avocados. As a missionary kid in Mexico, I picked them up like apples under big trees. I still am a guacamole junkie. How many other fattening foods are good for me?

Shots. Immunizations don’t rank as my preferred activity, and certainly not my grandchildren’s. But because of shots’ protection, holiday hugs and kisses induce only mild winter plagues.

Black, washable pants. They love sparkly holiday tops and simple ones. They’re immune to stains and grandbaby spit. Roomy in the rear, they don’t desert me after the holidays, as many of my clothes do.

My piano. I don’t own a grand or even a baby grand. But my little Baldwin comprised our first major purchase after Hubby finished medical school. I thought we should spend his first paychecks on practical items. He insisted, “You miss having a piano.” Whenever I play, it still sings a love song.

Our baby trees, whose lanky little branches and colorful fall foliage inspire me with lavish dreams for their future.

Image by lovini from Pixabay.

Our camper. The one Hubby purchased when I was too sick to fight it. Even sitting idle, it sets us free. Already, we picture days in the green woods and s’mores around campfires on starry nights.

Gummy worms. Incredibly lifelike, they possess magical powers. When decorating a grandson’s birthday cake, they enable me to resist eating it.

Our brown sofa. Thank God, Hubby talked me out of buying a red one. Otherwise, after eight years, it would present a less-than-artistic mosaic of peanut butter, jelly, pizza, mustard and gravy stains. Because of, um, the grandchildren. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My neighbor’s yard. Raked and pristine, it gives me a goal to shoot for when I grow up.

Free chips and salsa. A highlight of dining in Mexican restaurants.

Image by Lilly Cantabile from Pixabay.

Laid-back drivers. People who drive sl-o-o-ow-ly on two-lane highways annoy me to the point I pray aloud to occupy mind and mouth. They even force me to notice the loveliness I miss when whipping by as usual.

Accelerators. Cars wouldn’t be much good without them, right?

Ditto for brakes. And headlights.

Paper towels. While living in Ecuador for two months, I missed them terribly. (Thank goodness, Ecuador did manufacture toilet paper.)

Our grandson at the beach.

Baby smiles. They always ruin a bad day.

A critic might protest, “Your list goes on forever!”

True. I never run out of weird things for which to be thankful, because my Creator never, ever stops giving.

He’s weird that way — and wonderful.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What odd reasons for gratitude pop up on your list?

That Between-Holidays Feeling

The calendar gap spanning Halloween and Thanksgiving gives me that between-holidays feeling.

Image by Michael Shivili from Pixabay.

Many, craving Christmas, skip it.

Me? I want to slow down. With no more scary skulls, spider webs and zombies, why not continue the fun of pumpkins, cute scarecrows and gorgeous leaves?

Another cause for celebration: colder weather brings comfort food — though the official Comfort Food Day is December 5. Do holiday authorities really think I’ll wait that long for chicken and noodles?

Fortunately, this influx of calorie-rich food is accompanied by baggy sweaters, lifesavers until New Year’s resolutions ruin everything.

Not all between-holiday positives are unhealthy. Though the growing season is finished, carrots, still residing in our garden, will bless our table. Tomatoes and peppers rescued from frost glow in golden and red splendor before patio doors. Why my parents ripened garden produce on paper grocery sacks, I don’t know. But following suit recalls their love of autumn and determination not to let food go to waste.

Rescue efforts during this between season include the migration of shivering, potted plants from porches to places inside. For plant lovers like me — and my longsuffering husband — this can prove challenging:

Image by zbuhdalu from Pixabay.

Me: I can’t let this begonia freeze. It started blooming again. My zinnias. My herbs —

Husband: How many pots have you brought in?

Me: So far, only 37.

Hubby: Where will you put them? What will we do with them at Thanksgiving? You know Tate [our toddler grandson] loves plants.

Me: Let’s hide them in our room.

Hubby: (resignedly) Gives a whole new meaning to “flower bed,” right?

Sadly, this between season doesn’t preclude yardwork. Not only should I trim perennials and compost withered annuals, but thousands of leaves wait to pounce on us. No raking deadlines are etched in stone, but this must be accomplished by Thanksgiving, right?

As should major indoor cleaning. My chaotic office — drafted as a “spare bedroom” during the holidays — couldn’t provide overnight accommodations for a visiting chihuahua. Our neglected home dictates a major cleanup. However, we have six grandsons, ages 3 to 15. Given Thanksgiving and Christmas family gatherings, why would anyone possessing a brain cell perform such an exercise in futility?

Wait.

I, too, have shifted to pondering the holiday season. Thoughts of cooking, shopping and wrapping cram my mind like too many ornaments on a gaudy Christmas tree.

Friends who are aliens already have completed shopping and wrapping. They’ve designed and frozen perfect cookies for Santa — plus enough for the entire state of Indiana.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay.

But I still sip pumpkin spice lattes when I can find them. Savor that rare, soon-to-vanish feeling of having some money.

Let’s enjoy between-holidays feelings while we can.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Are you in a hurry for Christmas?

Cleaning Combat

Who likes cleaning out refrigerators and freezers?

Not me. And especially, not mine.

But I refuse to feed my garden’s fresh veggies to whatever life forms lurk in fridge and freezer.

Confrontation time.

I review my checklist. Bucket of hot water and disinfectant. Rubber gloves. Body armor. Samurai sword. Hey, past-expiration yogurt gets testy when evicted.

The apron sewn by my husband’s grandma.

I also don an apron sewn by my husband’s grandma. A gentle soul, she nevertheless fought a fierce, lifelong war against germs and dirt.

Her brave spirit pokes me with a scrub brush. “Be strong!”

I straighten, grab my sword and slowly crack the fridge’s door.

Nothing stirs, but I’ve been fooled by silence before.

I throw it open wide.

Ack! Half-filled bottles of lavender salad dressing. Pudding that resembles petri dishes. Mashed potatoes that give a whole new meaning to the term “green vegetable.”

Did something move? A-a-a-a-a-ack!

My chance of survival seems better in the garage, where I slowly open the freezer. No tentacles. I lay down my sword, though I won’t remove body armor or apron.

I summon Golden Oldies to fool my back and muscles into thinking they’re young. A rhythmic tune boogies me across the garage: “Mission Impossible.”

My Cold War almost morphs into peaceful coexistence when the song changes to the “Purple People Eater.” Will Hubby return to find nothing but my eyeglasses and piles of defrosted food? Will he weep more for my demise or the expensive loss of pot roasts?

Thankfully, the music changes to the Star Wars theme: Da, da, da-da-da da da! Retying my mighty apron, I plunge into the freezer’s alternative universe.

White, amorphous, furry-looking packages meet my eyes, their age detectable only by carbon dating. Identifiable or not, each package/container evokes a question:

  • Why did I shred four dozen bags of zucchini? My husband hates zucchini bread.
  • Do Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys grow exponential sets of giblets?
  • Did this single serving of tuna casserole preexist with God in the beginning?

While pondering cosmic questions, I toss out piles of mystery food, moving to the pulsating background of “You’re No Good.” “A Hard Day’s Night” demands endless elbow “Grease,” but eventually the fridge, freezer and I graduate to “Splish Splash.” We revel in unfamiliar spotlessness.

I play H-O-R-S-E with the giblets, shooting them into trash cans. Alas, in attempting a three-pointer, I hit a garbage man.

He doesn’t seem to take my poor aim personally, though he dives for the truck. It roars off to background strains of “Hey hey hey, goodbye. …”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you done recent cleaning combat? (If not recent, I won’t tell.)

Classic Post: Loony the Lamb

This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.

For years, I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter, I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles.

Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®.

What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. What God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which, BTW, means “lamb.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

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 Classic Post: The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

This post first appeared on December 16, 2015.

My name is Rachael, and I’m a Christmas music addict.

Recently, I found a station that plays one 100 percent Christmas music. “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “What Child Is This?” filled the room, sung by rich-voiced choirs and artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sandi Patty and Perry Como.

However, intermingled “cute” Christmas carols triggered memories of long-ago kiddie programs in which I wore scratchy can-cans and pinched-toe Mary Janes while singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a way-too-much-information ballad, caused me, like the Chipmunks, to wish Christmas wouldn’t be late — partly so I wouldn’t have to sing that stupid kissing song anymore.

Fortunately, I missed out on other animal holiday favorites during that era, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” so popular that listeners raised funds to buy one for the 10-year-old singer. Her mother wouldn’t let it sleep in her room, so the girl donated it to a zoo.

Like every Boomer kid, though, I donned western gear to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with cowboy Gene Autry.

Even with annoying add-ons (“like a light bulb,” “like Pinocchio,” etc.) Rudolph can’t begin to compete with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” for holiday crassness. And yes, I held that opinion long before I became one (a grandma, not a reindeer).

Lately, however, I discovered a song that surpasses that twisted tune, a rap entitled “Reindeer Poop.” Although the lyrics laud a chocolate mounded candy, wouldn’t your mother have washed your mouth out with soap if you’d taught that to your little brother?

The Seedy Greedy Award goes to “Santa Baby.” This singer doesn’t welcome partridges in a pear tree from her true love. She goes for sables, a convertible, checks … and, Santa, baby, a platinum mine would be nice, too.

Actually, the gifts lauded by the English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” aren’t so economical, either. Their cost totals $107,300, according to Kevin Bagos of AP News. If necessary, one can always go in for a less expensive version, Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas,” which includes three shotgun shells, two huntin’ dogs and parts to a Mustang GT, as well as nine years of probation and six cans of Spam.

Six cans of Spam? Not a Christmas dinner to settle the stomach. If that doesn’t make you squeamish, “Vincent the Christmas Virus” by Canadian band The Arrogant Worms will.

My name is Rachael, and I’m still an Advent music addict.

But some Christmas songs out there come close to effecting a cure.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you know one you’d like to fixate in your worst enemy’s mind till 2023?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: I Love Orange

O my God, You are the Giver of all good things, especially Jesus! This year, You’ve also given us an extra week of November to give thanks. To enjoy autumn and all things orange. OMG, You know I love Christmas. But can’t glitzy green and red wait until December?