Tag: Christmas (page 2 of 4)

Everyday Grace and the Fingerprints of God

Daughters Katy and Maggie and son-in-law Austin have gone back to the coasts – D.C. and San Francisco.

It finally snowed here in Minnesota (righting a cosmic wrong).

Christmas is over and I’m feeling the let-down. I’m sitting by the fire in our kitchen at dusk with a cup of hot chocolate as I write this.  Maggie insists I call it hot chocolate instead of cocoa.  No idea why.

The Christmas decorations are packed away til next year.  Ornaments made with chubby hands and glue of love.  Unusual baubles brought from far flung places.  Decorations marking special times.


As I pack up Christmas I feel so conflicted…

I love and hate this time of year.

I hate it that it’s the end of my favorite season.  The end of twinkle lights and anticipation, shining stars and awe-struck shepherds.  Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.

Jesus.  Every-day grace and fresh starts.  Every day.  Not just at Christmas and not just at New Years.

As I’m taking down decorations and wrapping up the creche I get to thinking there’s really no way to pack Jesus away.

I think of this Frederick Buechner quote: Continue reading

Soul Food for the Day After Christmas

Note: I’ve heard from many people that have had a trouble subscribing to the blog. First of all, “Thank you for trying!” My amazing, wonderful, favorite son-in-law has been in town this Christmas and has changed the subscription system so hopefully it won’t be a problem anymore. 

For those of you who aren’t out looking for after Christmas deals today and prefer instead to sit in front of a fire while your kids play with new toys, here are a few things to make you smile. Continue reading

Preparing to Prepare for Jesus

So I thought I was doing so much better with the jet-lag thing this time around, but maybe not. This morning I was awake at 4:00, up at 4:30 and out the door at 5:00. Problem is my Starbucks doesn’t open til 5:30. So I walked the long way, through the dark silent streets of my neighborhood, most folks still snuggled in their warm beds, dreaming of sugar plums or something.

It was cold and crisp and as my breath showed up in white wisps, it gave me a chance to pray and to reflect on the upcoming Advent season.


The silence and peace of the early morning was such a contrast to the noise, and hurry that can dominate this season when we long for the “heavenly peace” of Silent Night –  to be preparing for Jesus.

It got me to thinking…What do you want for Advent this year? What do you love about Advent? What are your hopes? How do you make choices instead of allowing the world to squeeze you into its mold?  I wrote last week about having a plan.

So, two questions that lead to choices around Advent: Continue reading

Soul Food – Gifts for Christmas

It’s almost Thanksgiving. Twinkle lights are starting to appear and Peppermint Mochas are available. I’ve started playing Christmas music and praying about how God might use these posts to bring life and peace this Advent.


One of the huge stressors of the season is the gift giving. Can I get an “AMEN”?!! The financial strain, the time crunch, the emotional stress of trying to find Just The Right Thing. We want it to be delightful and natural and sometimes it is, but others times…

Can I make a few suggestions (especially if you have young kids)? Note: everyone is different! Maybe these aren’t right for you. Continue reading


Merry Christmas Eve Morning!  I’m guessing if you’re reading this either you’re ahead of the game with ALL OF THE THINGS done and the Hallelujah Chorus playing on Spotify, candles lit, and presents perfect, or you’re hiding in the bathroom binging on Christmas cookies, reading this and pretending you don’t hear your kids fighting outside the door.

For us it has been a delightful week of having both our daughters in town with lots of hugs, and catching up, laughter, and a Christmas before Christmas brunch with Maggie who headed to Texas yesterday to be with her husband and in-laws.


But lest you picture our lives as a Norman Rockwell painting, let me just share a few other snapshots. Continue reading

5 Questions To Ask Your Family This Christmas

So you’ve done the running around and the shopping and cleaning and baking and now we’re getting close to the time when family will be arriving at your house, or you’ll be traveling to theirs.

Our daughter Maggie arrived this morning at 3:30 a.m. to spend a few days before she heads to Texas to be with her in-laws, and Katy arrives Saturday.

Sometimes we’re so stressed and busy during the holidays that we don’t really reflect on what we want to have happen while we’re together – you know, how to be truly present to each other. Then before we know it Christmas is over, family is gone and we’re left thinking “woulda-coulda-shoulda”.

So I got to thinking about questions I want to make sure to ask when we’re around the dinner table, or at the coffee shop. Continue reading

Packing up Christmas and Choosing Life. Again.

Is this pathetic, or what?photo-70

I think the day I take down our Christmas tree is the saddest day of my year.  I may have mentioned once.  Or fifty bazillion times to my family.

photo-4I don’t want to pack up the glow of starlight and holy mystery, the delight of twinkle lights and tingly anticipation of bright wrapping and all the lovely things.

There is no better story than this long-awaited birth.  I don’t want to stop thinking about ordinary but devoted Mary pondering “plan B”, or Joseph responding to the holy interruption that turned his world upside-down.  I love imagining the crazy-plain and teenaged shepherds wearing eau de crap, on hillsides invited the event of the millennium.  I don’t want to stop celebrating Jesus’ arrival in a humble place like Bethlehem.

Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.  It seems like a death when my One Word is LIFE. (You can still join Awakeners opting in and post your One Word here if you want!)

So when our tree is dead and the boughs are browning and the world is encased in ice like a corpse, how do we continue to choose life?

A friend sent me this quote:

“The true meaning of Christmas is found in the sharing of one’s graces in a world in which it is so easy to become cold, insensitive and hard.  Once this spirit becomes part of life, every day is Christmas and every night is freighted with the dawning of fresh and perhaps holy adventure.” H Thurmond

Choosing life means we choose grace.  We return again and again to the manger where Life and Light arrived on Christmas, not because we earned it but because it showed up when we least expected it and didn’t deserve it.  We accept the gift and share it with others.

When I think of this Christmas choice I think of a mentor named Coke.  She and her pastor husband were much maligned and criticized by a bitter old man in the church where we served many years ago, but one of the images I store of her in my memory is when I walked into a concert being held in the church basement.  There was Coke, sitting next to her “enemy”, leaning in and listening to him with love and attention in her eyes.  She was extending grace, and celebrating Christmas in that everyday moment.

Right now, what is one significant relationship in your life?  Hard or easy.  A spouse or a friend. A mother-in-law or a fiancé.  Got someone in mind?

What would it look like to extend grace to them and celebrate Christmas again today?  Offering an apology from the deepest part of you?  A word of affirmation, encouragement or forgiveness?  A secret act of service?  A listening ear?

“Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” 2 Cor. 13:5


The Simpsons, the Cleavers, the Holidays, and the Bible

John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family.  For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.DSC00619

I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.

Some of us have dreams that look like this:


But reality can often look like this:


And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family.  We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.

Continue reading


Fall in Minnesota is like Mardi Gras.

Actually I don’t know that for sure because I’ve never been to Mardi Gras, but Fall is a huge event.  A blazing last hurrah before THE DEPRIVATION of light and color and warmth for a long, long, time.  Sounds like Mardi Gras to me.

When we left Minneapolis two weeks ago for Africa, the firey autumnal luster was fading but leaves were valiantly clinging to branches, reluctant to give up the fight and die for the long, long, long frozen season of dark.


Spoiler alert: they failed in their efforts.


Now, we return to the black crooked limbs silhouetted against a gray November sky.  The leaves have lost the battle and lay cold on the ground. Twinkle lights try to replace the glow of harvest color and there’s a tug-o-war going on between those who want to start the Christmas carols now and those who don’t want to leap over Thanksgiving straight to the 24 hour holiday sales of the day after. Continue reading

The Chorus of a Bleak January

I’ve been doing something weird lately.

It’s January and I think most of us are feeling a bit schizophrenic.  Relieved to get back to the predictable routine of catching the bus to work, and grocery shopping, hair cuts and t.v. shows and recycling.

But there’s also the let down of ordinariness and a bleak winter (for those of us in Minnesota at least) stretching out interminably and we’re thinking it would be kind of nice if there was one more gift to unwrap that was forgotten in the rush.


So I’ve been listening to Christmas music.  In January.  I’ve left my Pandora Classic Christmas music station on, and it’s been like with all the noise of other Christmassy stuff muted til next November, God’s voice has a chance with me.

Continue reading

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