Merry Christmas!

I feel like I have celebrated Christmas every day this month, not just today, Christmas Eve. There have been so many joyous momemts, from the day after Thanksgiving when my husband and I go to The Growing Place for fresh greens to adorn the house, to the ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas exhibit at Naper Settlement. (Complete with “antique” copies of the book I used to read to my classes in third grade.)

There was my son’s birthday on the 7th, when he turned 29, and a luncheon at Knox Presbyterian church where I heard my dear friend Carol present A Reel Meaning of Christmas. I have made cookies, and drunk coffee with my beloved parents, and hosted my husband’s family for Christmas last Saturday, complete with individual meat pies for everyone and a roasted turkey to share.

Every morning I open the Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar, with the theme of the Cotswolds this year, first introduced and given to me by dear Linda at The Task at Hand. And, I read a little book called The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper. (You can read the book of only 98 pages online here.) His words have helped me focus on great truth, instead of ads and panic and the feeling that Christmas ought to be a time when everything is perfect. As if it could be.

Piper starts his book with a chapter entitled, “The Search and Save Mission”. Here is my favorite quote from it:

It’s a season for cherishing and worshiping this characteristic of God – that he is a searching and saving God, that he is a God on a mission, that he is not aloof or passive or indecisive…He is sending pursuing, searching, saving. That’s the meaning of Advent.

Then he reminds us why Jesus came:

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

Don’t leave Christmas in the abstract. Your sin. Your conflict with the devil. Your victory. He came for this.

More important to me than anything (the cookies, the parties, the celebrations, the presents) is that He came to set us free. That is why we have Christmas.

May your days be bright, your sorrows be diminished, and your joy without bounds today, tomorrow and always.

Merry Christmas,


The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper, a Midwinter Read-along Which I’m Eagerly Joining

It was purely by chance I discovered an invitation, put forth by Julia Bird, on Twitter this evening.

Apparently there is an organized reading of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising, a children’s book published in 1973 which I have long seen on school library shelves but never read myself.

The read-along begins on Midwinter Eve (December 20) and runs through the Twelfth Night (January 5) with discussion happening on Twitter using the hashtag: #TheDarkisReading.

Perhaps you will join in, as well. It sounds too delectable to pass.

Good Tidings


I received this card yesterday from an old blogging friend, one who never forgets me no matter how careless I am in sending forth good will. It is one of my favorite cards received this year.

A challenging year it has been, from a serious car accident involving my son, to two small surgeries for myself, and one for my mother. And these are only the outward manifestations of some inner emotional turmoil. But we are all here, experiencing grace, and I am so grateful.

When things are difficult I am convinced it is for our good. Our bodies aren’t  nourished on only sweets; our lives are not strengthened by only smooth days. My mother has said to me, “Courage grows strong in a wound.” My father has said to me, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” These are the words I live by.

But at Christmas, I also live by these words:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. (Like me, so many times.)

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

Luke 2:8-11 (KJV)

And I wish for you good tidings of great joy, of great comfort, and of great hope for 2016. God bless you, each one.


Christmas Eve Eve…and a Merry Christmas to You All!


I’m glad to be home tonight, away from the stores and the crowds and the traffic. That’s not Christmas.

I like to think of Christmas as it must have been in the stable: simple, quiet, and probably a little bit scary for Mary and Joseph.

Christmas can be a little scary. It’s scary to think of a new year and all the woe it might bring. It’s scary to think of people alone on this most holy of nights, even if it isn’t holy to them…who wants to sit alone by the fire? Or worse, the television?

Jesus didn’t come so we’d have to be alone. He came to comfort us, and to sit with us, and to remind us that we aren’t by ourselves.

I’m so grateful for His love.

And, I’m grateful for my husband. My son. My parents. Days off of work. The stupid tooth implant that I’ve had to have redone just this morning. I’m determined to see joy and to give joy; to sit in peace and to spread peace; to show my love to everyone.

May you have a very Merry Christmas. May all your days be bright, and the scary bits few.

Merry Christmas!

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Luke 2:8-14

I wish you such a very Merry Christmas, and pray that your heart is light. May His peace rest on us all.


A Christmas Carol for Dickens in December

One forgets, upon opening Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, that Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. The first is his partner, Marley, who tells him, “I wear the chain I forged in life…I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?” Immediately we are confronted with the image of bearing what we have ourselves created, a string of good deeds or bad all connected and resting round our bodies.
This is what I loved most about A Christmas Carol. Not the wonderful descriptions of Victorian England, which indeed feel more like Christmas to me than any other setting, but the way Dickens’ story caused me to reflect on my own life.
How funny, in a terrible way, that when Scrooge’s nephew leads a Game called Yes and No, he was “thinking of an animal, a life animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes and lived in London, and walked about the streets, and wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody, and didn’t live in a menagerie and was never killed in a market, and was not a horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear.” And so with wondering what kind of chain I have created in my life, I’m now wondering what kind of animal I would be…
The revelation of all the woe that one has consciously, or unconsciously, wrought begs only one question: “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me by an altered life?” Because the hope of Christmas brings a new beginning, a new year in which to try to set things right.
That is what I love most about this story, for it is a story of redemption. Once shown his evil ways, Scrooge wakes on Christmas Day, a bright, sunny, cheerful morning with a bright, sunny, cheerful heart. He is determined to make up for what he had failed to do in his stinginess and depravity; once shown the error of his ways, he now begins anew thus negating everything the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has revealed.

(I read this novel for Caroline and Delia‘s Dickens in December Challenge.)

Christmas Stories from Everyman’s Library

I bought this pretty book of Christmas Stories from Everyman’s Library last year, but it was after Christmas passed. So now I’m enjoying a story here and there when I have the time for something brief in between planning next week’s party, writing cards, and finding last minute presents.
It is filled with stories, from well known authors, such as these:
  • The Story of The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton by Charles Dickens
  • The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
  • The Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope
  • Where Love is, God is by Leo Tolstoy
  • Vanka by Anton Chekhov
  • The Burglar’s Christmas by Willa Cather
  • A Chapparal Christmas Gift by O. Henry
  • Reginald’s Christmas Revel by Saki (H. H. Munro)
  • Christmas by Vladimir Nabakov
  • Dancing Dan’s Christmas by Damon Runyon
  • Bella Fleace Gave a Party by Evelyn Waugh
  • Green Holly by Elizabeth Bowen
  • Christmas is a Sad Season for the Poor by John Cheever
  • A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
  • The Carol Sing by John Updike
  • Christmas Fugue by Muriel Spark
  • The Loudest Voice by Grace Paley
  • The Turkey Season by Alice Munro
  • Creche by Richard Ford
I have just finished The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol, a bizarre short story about the devil stealing the moon on the last day before Christmas arrived. He sets off much chaos in a small town and its inhabitants, almost crushed under their self-serving ways, until he is vanquished by the noble blacksmith. 
“Still more swiftly in the remaining time of night did the devil race home with the blacksmith. Vakula instantly found himself by his cottage. Just then the cock crowed. ‘Hold on!’ he cried, snatching the devil by the tail as he was about to run away.’Wait, friend, that’s not all – I haven’t thanked you yet.’ Here, seizing a switch, he measured him out three strokes, and the poor devil broke into a run like a muzhik who has just been given a roasting by an assessor. And so, instead of deceiving, seducing , and duping others, the enemy of the human race was duped himself. After which, Vakula went into the front hall, burrowed under the hay and slept until dinnertime.”
It is a rather convoluted story, in my opinion, but any time the devil is trumped, the story works for me.
Have you any suggestions of the next one I should read? They all lay before me like so many unopened presents…

Merry Christmas!

After all the waiting, all the anticipation, all the hope, Christmas is finally upon us. Yesterday, my mother came over, and we baked all day while we laughed, and talked, and drank pots of tea. We made dinner rolls, potatoes au gratin, gingersnaps, and a traditional cookie for my family called Ribbon cookies (which are layers of poppy seed, chocolate with pecans, and cherries in the dough). So delicious.
The doorbell rang unexpectedly at noon, bringing my father with a bag full of steaming pastrami and corned beef sandwiches from Schmaltz’s deli. “Oh, good!” I said, “you brought us some bagels for the Christmas tree!” We love to joke, my dad and I, and we don’t mean to be disrespectful to anyone in the process. The three of us sat around the table with coffee, and joyfully shared the sandwiches in the middle of a gray Friday afternoon.

The point is, for me? Christmas is made of these times, these surprises, these unexpected gifts of time. Like when my son showed up to my classroom on Tuesday with McDonald’s for lunch. He was an hour and a half early, but he sat and talked with the kids, and what matters is that he came. For me.
I don’t really care about the presents under the tree. All the food is nice, all the parties are fun, all the sighs of relief when everything is prepared are so satisfactory. But, the best parts of Christmas are the moments with my loved ones. The time to be quiet. The knowledge that our Saviour has come. For us.
God bless you today, tomorrow and for all of 2012.

(Loved the collection of little trees which can be found here.)

Just When You Think Christmas is Over

the post brings a box which is totally unexpected:

Inside the wrappings I uncovered:

all accompanied by the sweetest note from one of my oldest blogging friends. Bookfool and Lesley were the first blogging friends I had in this book blogging world, always they will be a joy and an inspiration to me. Thank you for four years of friendship and joy, both of you. Thank you, Bookfool, for knowing just what would thrill me on this rainy (in Chicago?!) New Year’s Eve.

Happy New Year to all!

A Christmas Wish For You

I’d love to put up a passage from Dickens, or a poem from Longfellow, or even an inspiration from Martin Luther, but I’ve found a quote from a woman I’d rather share with you here:

I can understand people simply fleeing the mountainous effort Christmas has become… but there are always a few saving graces and finally they make up for all the bother and distress. ~May Sarton

If your Christmas has been a bit like mine, almost Too Much Christmas For Just One Girl for the last three weekends, may you find a saving grace to make up for the hectic pace. I wish you every blessing this Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day, and in your New Year to come.

Merry Christmas,