Thank you for visiting my porch this past year.
I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you in 2014.
- Capture ‘The Good Stuff’ (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
As Christmas Day gets closer, families and friends are making plans to gather together to celebrate the Season. For a lot of families it will be the only time that they gather all year. In other words, the Christmas Season is a time for coming together with people near and far.
Over the years, I have over heard conversations, heard comic routines and seen movies like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation that show and/or express the downside of these family gatherings. Family members off to a corner to talk about another person and it is usually not anything of building that person up. There is always a family member that has to one up what anyone else has to share or is doing in their life. Scenes such as these can set the stage for not very fond memories and a very stressful Christmas. It is scenes and situations such as these that make me sad to observe and hear about. After all, the reason for the Season is celebrating a person who came to this world to demonstrate what grace is all about and how we are to accept each other flaws and all. He came to this world so that we can experience the good stuff.
In the song, The Good Stuff it is an older man telling a young man how important it is to capture all the good moments as you are starting out in a marriage and in life. We can carry the theme of this song into the Christmas Season. Instead of looking for ways of criticizing a family member or friend because they don’t do things the way do, I encourage us to seek the good qualities in each person. Let’s take the time to laugh not at each other but with each other. We need to embrace the hugs the conversations and laughter as much as we can because we never know who may not be with us the next time we are together.
For most families, there is going to be a grandparent, aunt or uncle that is going to tell a story of Christmas past that we have heard a hundred times before. Instead of rolling our eyes back and saying; “here we go again” take heed the words found in Proverbs 2:11 about being quick to listen. It might be this one Christmas that we may catch a part and/or meaning of the story that has an impact on our life. Also, it is important to remember that these stories are a part of who we are and they are a special heritage that needs to be handed on down to the next generation.
Then there comes to the moment when we exchange and open gifts. I am sure there will be a gift where we will think; “oh, you shouldn’t have”, “you really shouldn’t have” with a fake smile on our face as we give the giver a fake thank-you hug. Instead, we need to be that extravagant receiver that I talk about in my blog, The Extravagant Receiver. We have to realize that the giver took the time out to think of us and the joy they have felt as they prepared the gift. Let’s not steal their joy but embrace the joy. In other words, capture the good stuff.
Last but certainly not least, we need to capture the good stuff of what Christmas is all about. Christmas is about a baby being born that would grow up to a man who would die for us so that we can experience the good stuff in life.
My Christmas wish for you is that you capture all the good stuff you can not only during this Christmas Season but in the year ahead.
- Ten Ways To Stuff Your Stocking (pennythots.com)
- First Things First (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Christmas Time In Africa (profarms.wordpress.com)
- Extravagant Receiving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- 1915 Letter To Santa May Make Today’s Kids Feel Pretty Greedy In Comparison (PHOTO) (mukeshbalani.wordpress.com)
There is a picture of a tear that has been going around on Facebook that says; “ever have a memory to roll down your cheek?” I recently had one of those moments. For me, it was hearing the song, Don’t Blink and not some Christmas song that caused this gal’s dam to break.
As I listened to Kenny sing about how life goes by so fast, I reminisced on Christmases past. As I reminisced, I looked about the family room and other rooms of little reminders of not only Christmases past but of those who have had a special influence and place in my life and heart.
In the picture there are four items that represent Christmases past and the meaning for Christmas for me. The first item is the train under the Christmas tree. Growing up it was a tradition for Dad to set up the train under the Christmas tree. My brother and I would sit there for hours making up destinations of where the train would be going and we would also add a little cargo to the cargo cars as we played. Though the train only went around in one continuous circle my brother and I reached many destinations in our imaginations.
The other item in the picture is an elf. I remember the year Mom and Dad went to Sears and Roebuck to buy new Christmas ornaments. I was probably about six or seven at the time. Mom picked out candy canes, gingerbread houses, gingerbread men and these elves that would decorate our tree. Over the years these ornaments became damaged because of the wear of time and due to the moves they had to make as we moved from one place to another. However, out of those ornaments were two elves. One elf for me and one for my brother. This elf sitting on the ladder is the elf that has now gone with me from place to place. Each year I place it on the ladder going up the tree and each year I remember the Christmases from childhood. Oh, I could go on about the different Christmases and what made them so special but that will have to wait for another day and time.
Beside the train lays a sweatshirt with a reindeer painted on it. This sweatshirt was a craft that my son, Drew made when he was in pre-school. On it is an old pizza stain that won’t come out but it does not stop me from getting it out year after year and having it on display somewhere in the house. When I reached into the closet to get this special shirt out the words; the secret to life is don’t blink came to my mind. It seems like it was just yesterday where Jim and I were out shopping for Drew’s first Christmas. And, this year we are Christmas shopping for him and his wife, Megan’s first home. It made me think of all the Christmases we have spent with Drew and I saw how time has really flown by. It is so true of what Kenny says in the song; “it’s important to put first things first” and “you can’t flip over the hour glass.” A tear rolled down my cheek as I longed to have that little boy back but also another tear rolled down my cheek with pride knowing what kind of man he has grown up to be.
Earlier, I mentioned the ladder. Jim’s parents gave us that one year in our early years of marriage. Jim’s mom has had a ladder by her tree through the years and she thought we needed one, too. Needless to say, I was excited to get it knowing that is was a part of bringing some of Jim’s Christmas past into our home. I don’t have them in the picture but there are snow flakes made by his sweet grandmother that go on our tree as well.
The train not only reminds me of Christmases growing up but it is a reminder that God sent his Son, Jesus and through Him there is a destination. The destination is heaven. By accepting Christ into my life, I have my ticket to heaven.
The elf on the ladder is a reminder that no matter where I go Jesus is there. Just like this elf being with me all these years and going through all the moves I’ve made, Jesus has always been there and will always be there with me. It is up to me to acknowledge His presence and make sure I include him in all that I do and invite him to go with me in all the places I go.
The sweatshirt reminds me of how time really does fly and the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL situations everyday. There are opportunities put before us each day of being a witness for Christ. We are given opened door opportunities to invite people to join us on the journey and yet so many times we don’t embark on them.
The snowflakes are a reminder of family. Though we are related by blood or by marriage,just like each snowflake we are each different and unique in our own way. Each one has something that they can and have contributed to the family and to the world in order to make things a little bit better for someone else.
The ladder reminds me of the story of Jacob. A ladder aids us in being able to reach something. Therefore, the ladder represents our connection to God. The ladder being Jesus whom is the very reason for the Christmas Season.
As I listen to the song, Don’t Blink again, I think of the song written by Mark Lowry and composed by Buddy Greene, Mary Did You Know?. Can you imagine what was going through Mary’s mind and what her heart was feeling as she watched her son carry a cross that he would soon die on? You know she thought about the moments of his coming into the world and the hours she must have watched him at play. Just like any mother she probably reminisced about his favorite foods and stories they had shared around the table. As a mom myself, I know it had to be a moment in time where she wished she could go back in time but couldn’t. Mary knew first things were first. She knew that though she carried and gave birth to this child of hers that He was God’s Son He was sent so that we may obtain the ultimate ticket to the most wonderful destination.
“The secret to life is don’t blink.” This lyric holds true not only for those moments we have with our family and friends. It also holds true for us in our Christian walk. There are opportunities out there for us every day to be the hands and feet of Christ. Yet, there are moments we sit and look back and realized we blinked. It is when we blinked we missed the opportunity of being a true ambassador for Christ.
This Christmas as I look at photos from Christmas past, hear the same old stories told like they have never been told before sing the old carols from years past, I will not only be reflecting on my life of memories with family and friends but I will reflect on my Christian walk. It is in the reflection where I will see where I blinked and will be made more aware of the importance of staying in tuned to God in ALL that I do.
This Christmas may you put first things first and that is keeping Christ first in your life. May you capture all the opportunities put before you to be his witness. May you also capture all those special little moments that soon become memories with your family and friends this season.
Growing up I did not always see my grandparents on my Dad’s side during the holidays. Grandmother and Papa Hill always made sure packages were wrapped and mailed to us in time to be under the tree for Christmas Eve. Most years we got our Christmas pajamas from them.
Yet, there was this one Christmas where my grandmother decided she would send me a night-gown instead of pajamas. After going out for a Christmas Eve services, dinner and visiting with friends, my brother and I rushed home anticipating opening that first gift on Christmas Eve. Of course, Dad had to draw out the anticipation by acting like he could not find the packages and then magically making them appear.
As soon as these packages landed in our laps the paper was off in the blink of an eye and the box lids flew opened. Instead of pulling out the fuzzy footie pajamas like I had always gotten, I began to pull out this night-gown. As I began to pull the gown out of the box the more material would come out. As the night-gown began to unfold and unfold, the entire room become quiet. I know the looks on the faces of my family had to be inquisitive. If you have every seen the movie, Christmas Story, I am sure my family’s faces looked about how the faces looked when the bunny rabbit pj’s were opened and the leg lamp came out of the box.
In my package that had been wrapped and shipped with love and care came out a nightgown with the size in the tag that said; “one size fits all.” As I began to unfold and unfold this nightgown, we realized that the entire family could get into this gown. (You see, I am a petite size gal. When God was giving out height, I overslept and missed getting in that line that day.) The more the gown unfolded the more everyone was scrambling for words. Suddenly out of my dad’s mouth came; “well, Peanut, looks like you have a new tent for camping.” At that moment the entire family was laughing until we were crying. Today, all I have to say is “one size fits all” and laughter will burst out in my family. I had received a gift that I was not going to be able to use.
After opening Santa and eating Christmas breakfast the next morning, Dad kept with tradition and called Papa and Grandmother Hill to wish them a Merry Christmas. My brother and I would also get on the phone to tell our grandparents thank-you for their love, thoughtfulness and the presents. This is one year I had to show gratitude for my gift while all the while my brother was in the background making a fort with the kitchen chairs and this ” one size fits all gown.”
I share this story because it is becoming the gift giving season. People work hard and shop hard to find that perfect gift to give their loved ones. These gifts are given or should be given out of the abundance of love from the heart. The gifts also show that the person cares enough to think about the receiver.
Yesterday, in my post, Extravagant Giving I shared how we need to be extravagant in our giving by giving others God’s grace. I also shared how God gave to us extravagantly so that we can have eternal life. We give to others out of the abundance of our hearts.
There are times when someone has received a gift and I have heard comments being made to the giver like the following:
“What were you thinking? I don’t need this!”
“I can’t believe you spent (insert $ amount) on this.”
“I don’t like the color.”
“This is NOT what I wanted!”
I am sure in my lifetime of forty-nine years I have made an off comment like these at some point and time. However, as I have gotten older and hopefully a little more mature I have come to realize these comments are not needed and should be said. Just as the giver has given out of the abundance of their hearts, we should receive out of the abundance of our hearts. When we are negative about a gift that has been given we are stealing the joy of the giver even if they are not present when the comment is made. Instead, we should be grateful that the person took time out of their schedule to do something for us. We also should be thankful that they took time out to think of us.
The gift is a material thing but it is also language of “I love you” and “I was thinking of you today.” Thus, our response should be that of gratitude. In other words, be an extravagant receiver. Now, what you do with the gift after the person leaves is up to you. Hold on to the gift in case you should some time need it. If the opportunity presents itself where someone else can actually use the gift, give it to them. The gift is now yours and up to you to do what you want with the gift.
As I said earlier, God gave to us extravagantly because he loves us so much and wants us with him for eternity. God gave us his Son and it is up to us to accept his Son into our hearts. We need to be an extravagant receiver of God’s gift. It is up to us as individuals of what to do with his gift. It is my hopes that we share his gift with others. We pass it on to someone else who needs Jesus in their lives.
Not only did God give us his Son but he gives us a gift everyday. As the old cliché says, every day is a present and it is up to us as to what we do with it”. It is up to us to make the most of every day God wakes us up. Each day God has blessings for us. It is up to us to be aware of his presence at all times to receive these blessings. When we receive these blessings it is important to acknowledge them and say thank you just as I acknowledged to my grandparents that I received their gift and said thank you.
This year as you receive Christmas cards and gifts be sure to be an extravagant receiver. Tell the giver thank you. Remember, the person took time out to think of you. They are giving out of the abundance of their heart. May our response to the gifts we receive and especially to the gift God gave us be the following:
“Thank you for thinking of me.”
“You are such a generous giver.”
” I didn’t realized I needed this blessing today but YOU did.”
I love the reminder we are given in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about having a grateful heart;
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in ALL circumstances, for this is God’s will
for you in Jesus Christ.
It is when we are an extravagant receiver that we will see the giver in a whole new perspective. We begin to see and experience joy in all things and we will become more open to see beyond the material gift and see the abundance of love the person has in their heart. May our receiving be a blessing to others this year as their giving is a blessing to us.
Until next time, give thanks for ALL things!
- Extravagant Giving (aprilhawk.wordpress.com)
- The Christmas Present Pile-Up: How Much Do You Buy? (motherhoodismagic.com)
- The gift of giving (fechaplaincy.wordpress.com)
When you hear the word, extravagant what comes to mind? Maybe it is the latest sports car that is on the front of Car and Driver. Maybe it is that featured house in Southern Living and how it is decorated. For some of us it may be a vision of that tropical vacation on some remote Island.
Extravagant is defined and perceived in many ways. The picture of the Taj Mahal is an example of extravagance at its finest. Shah Jahan ordered it to be built as a dedication to his late wife whose tomb is set within the building. It was said he did this because he loved her so much. It was built in the seventh century and it took twenty-two years to build. As I googled information on the building, it is said to be known as the most perfect building in the world. This building stands all because of the love one person had for another. In other words, it can be seen and perceived as extravagant giving.
Extravagant giving. What does it really mean? Does it mean we give the biggest and most expensive gift to someone? Does it mean we try to build something big like the Taj Mahal to show our love to someone? My personal answer to these questions is; no. Extravagant giving does not mean giving the biggest and most expensive gift or building something big just to impress or to show our love to someone.
When I think of extravagant giving the story in Luke 7:36-50 comes to mind. Jesus is invited to dinner at a Pharisee’s home. Social graces were that Simon should wash the feet of Jesus and anoint Jesus’ head with oil. Yet, Simon had neglected to do this for Jesus as he entered the home. As Jesus enters the home, a woman enters the home. The scriptures describe her as a sinful woman. “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” This woman gave an extravagant gift and that was her overflowing love to Jesus for the forgiveness and grace he had shown.
Yes, the alabaster jars were considered to be extravagant in that time. The perfume she used was said to be a very expensive perfume. In a material sense she one would say she gave extravagantly and the Pharisees would agree. Yet, the most extravagant thing in her giving was giving of herself and her gratitude to Christ. She gave out of the abundance of her heart.
If there were time and enough space to type, we could go through the gospels and see other ways people gave extravagant gifts. The little boy with the fish and the loaves, the widow who gave the last cent she had, and the list goes on. No matter the story, the theme is the same. These people knew what it meant to give in extra-ordinary and extravagant ways. They gave from their hearts the very best they had without complaining. They gave out of love.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. In a few weeks we will be celebrating Advent. Hanging of the Greens services will be taking place in churches. Preparations in homes will be made to get ready to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. It is a time of year where we celebrate the extravagant gift we have been given from God. We celebrate his Son, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his ONLY begotten son-so that we may have life eternal” (John 3:16 paraphrased). It is God’s extravagant giving that we have received mercy and grace. It is because of his extravagant giving that life doesn’t end when we leave this world but we continue to live on in our eternal home with our Father.
The Christmas Season is rapidly approaching. Commercials are running promoting the” have to have” product this year. People are making their lists for Santa and gathering shopping lists to shop for family and friends. The common statement you will hear this time of year is: “I don’t know what I am going to give_________(you fill in the person’s name) for Christmas.
How about this year you give not the “World’s Most Perfect Building.” In other words, it is not about the thing we give that shows our love but it is out of the over-flowing of love and gratitude from the grace that we have been given and shown. Maybe there is someone from whom we need to seek for forgiveness. Maybe there is someone who needs forgiveness extended to them.
Perhaps God has placed someone in our life who is longing to belong. They are searching for answers and we are the ones who can tell them about God’s extravagant gift, his Son, Jesus.
Yes, the Taj Mahal may be considered “The World’s Most Perfect Building” but there is no gift that is more perfect than the gift of grace that has been extended to us from the cross. May we give extravagantly this Christmas.
Questions for reflection:
Where have you experienced extravagant giving?
Is there a significant person who stands out or has shown you extravagant giving?
What are some things you can do this Christmas Season to demonstrate extravagant giving and the true meaning of Christmas?
As you go through the days ahead, keep your eyes, ears and heart opened to where God leads you to share his extravagant love and grace.
Unplugging from blogging and tweeting for the rest of the year.
I will be back next year with many more new thoughts to share.
May you and yours have a blessed Christmas Season
Many blessings to you and yours in 2013!
- Countdown: My Top Ten Childhood Christmas Memories (darsba.wordpress.com)
Since we are now in the midst of the Christmas Season, we know that the New Year is not too far away. It is on New Year’s Eve when we make those resolutions that we soon break within the first few weeks of January. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions this year, why not make Christmas resolutions?
The Advent Season is a time of preparing our hearts and minds for the Christ-child. As we make these preparations, why don’t we take time out and evaluate our walk with Christ. In this evaluation process, think about our daily walk with Christ. Where can we improve in the upcoming year? Think about our witness to a non-believing world. Are we a true witness for Christ? How do our priorities in life measure up? Do we put God first in ALL that we do?
On Christmas Eve, we will have made our evaluations/resolutions. On this particular night we will be celebrating the birth of the Christ-child. As with any celebration, gifts are brought and given to the honoree. This year, let’s place these changes that we want to make for the new year as our gifts to the Christ child. Then, allow the Christ-child to lead us through the new year.
- Advent hearts (murmursofmyheart.wordpress.com)
- Celebrating Advent With Kids – New for 2012 (godspace.wordpress.com)
- Christmas gifts (irenefrances.wordpress.com)
- A Celtic Liturgy for Week 2 of Advent by John Birch (godspace.wordpress.com)
- The Season of Advent (preachingthenewlectionary.com)
- Have you heard the 10 commandments of Christmas? (safaritothesoul.wordpress.com)
For us Southern Belles, not only is getting the tree and fireplace mantle in perfect shape but getting the dinning room table is at the top of list in what absolutely has to be done at Christmas. For me, candles are essential when setting the table not only at Christmas but year round. Having candles on the table holds meaning for me.
My grandfather on my dad’s side was a retired Army Colonel. When we visited my grandparents’ home, Mom would always make sure we were brushed up on our manners especially before going to the dinner table. Dinner at Papa Hill’s house was an event every night. The good china and silver were used. And, there were always candles on the table that were lit before we came to the table. No one sat down until Papa Hill took his seat at the head of the dinner table As a teen I would roll my eyes and think; “why can’t we just use the everyday dishes?” I would think this because I knew I would be the one helping after dinner hand washing all the china and silver and putting it all away.
Over the years in my adulthood, I have reminisced on those dinner affairs and their true meaning. For Papa, dinner with his family was special to him. He cherished having his family around the table for not only a meal but for a visit. Many a story and tale were shared around the table as we savored the pot roast, mashed potatoes green beans and apple pie. Grandmother had so lovingly prepared. Along with no one sitting until Papa sat, no one got up until they were properly excused by an adult at the table.
As I reminisce about dinner with Papa and once I had been properly excused from the table, I also remember being in the kitchen with Grandmother up to my elbows in suds helping her wash the china and silver. It was those moments in the kitchen where Grandmother would not say a lot but here and there she would gently and lovingly smile and give you a little wink. She was a quiet lady with little to say but her smiles and winks said it all. You knew all was right in the world.
One evening in May, 2002 I stood by my Grandfather’s bedside just a little before mid night. Jim and I had volunteered to take the night shift of staying up with him at the hospital. From the looks of things, we had a pretty good idea that Jim and I would not be there all night. Late in the night, Jim sat by Papa’s side checking vitals until Jim noticed Papa’s breaths were getting further apart. As these breaths were getting shallow, I came over and took Papa by the hand. While holding tight to his hand, I looked at him and thanked him for all the cherished memories he had given us around the table that was always beautifully set with linens and candles. Then, I said “Papa, the table is now set for you. God has the candles lit and He has your place ready for you to take your seat at His banquet table. ” A few seconds later, Papa joined Jesus at the great banquet table.
The table is set. It is Christmas. The candles, fine linens and china are on the table. A meal will be prepared and the candles will be lit where new memories will be made and old stories shared. As I light the candles, I will not only remember my loving grandparents who showed by example that we are all special but I will also be reminded that Christ is and has always been the center of our family.
How about you? Is your table set? If you haven’t already, add some candles to your table. Let your family know how special they are and remind them that Christ is the center of your home by lighting the candles. Sit around the table and make memories and share old stories. The teenagers may roll their eyes a little but let them roll. One day, they will be thankful that they have such warm memories.
This post is dedicated in loving memory of Col. Carl R. Hill, Sr and Virginia Louise Hill