Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Did I Love About Christmas Most?

We have always been blessed to spend Christmas with our families. Every year, except one, we have taken turns going to my parents or my in-laws. That one year we spent by ourselves - well, we decided to put it out of our minds forever- so we don't count it anymore. We are both the oldest of seven children and over the years we have accumulated many in-laws, nephews, nieces, cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. Big families are the best and I would never want it any other way.

This year was my husband's year and so we trekked to the mountains and joined about 40 other family members to celebrate love, family and the birth of the One who made it all possible. We had a fantastic time.

We were so blessed to have been offered the use of a condo at a ski resort that, due to the economy and the fact that it was built "too much too fast" is in foreclosure. It is an incredibly beautiful place that seemed very uncharacteristically quiet and forlorn. We loved it. It was big enough to house our kids and grandkids and we enjoyed every single minute of it. We slept in each morning and rose to coffee and leisurely breakfasts. We spent afternoons and evenings at my mother-in-laws house visiting family and playing games. It was an amazing time and the pictures at the end of this post will testify to that.

But I found myself enjoying the simple things the most. Things like:

* The beautiful, beautiful snow. It added such a quiet and peaceful elegance to our surroundings. Snow makes everything so hushed. I was standing outside one afternoon just looking at the beauty around me. Suddenly there was a magnificent whirr in the air and I looked up and heard a bird flying away. Have you ever heard a bird fly? It was a most reverent moment. Life doesn't usually afford me the luxury of enjoying such a simple, yet majestic thing.

* The cold, cold air. It was about 7 degrees - really, really cold. Have you ever heard how loud snow crunches when it is so cold? It is really loud. And when you poke a hole in the snow when it is so cold, the hole glows blue. It's reflection from the sky but it is the most beautiful color of blue I have ever seen.

* At night when the light of the moon shines on the snow it sparkles like a million diamonds have been sprinkled down from the sky. What a sight to see.

* This year having two grandbabies to live in a condo with for five days was the greatest gift of all. What fun they were as we enjoyed every moment we could with them. They were just precious.

* There is nothing like soaking in a hot tub at night under the stars. I won't even bother trying to describe the beauty of it - I don't know the words.

* Coffee in the morning with the ones you love most in the whole wide world.

* Watching The Sound of Music and eating popcorn in the evening with the ones you love most in the whole wide world.

With families as big as ours you can't possibly do everything together. And so family groups did their own thing and then we came together and ate and played games. It was probably one of the most relaxing times I have had in a long, long time.

I will be posting again soon to share some very interesting news. One thing is for sure, life is never, ever boring.

And I have been praying for a Word for the year as so many of my blogging friends do. This will be my first year and I have to say that as I have prayed I have felt a bit nervous to do so. One word in particular keeps coming to mind so I am guessing I have received it. I plan to share it soon.

God is good. All the time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Start Your New Year Right

Need a new devotional for the new year? Here's one to consider:40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day

Why don’t I have more faith?Why am I so bored with Jesus?Why don’t I feel connected at church?
These are the types of questions the religious establishment often makes it uncomfortable, if not impossible, to ask. And by asking them, C. David Baker, author of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day hopes to start a conversation in people’s hearts, then with others, and ultimately with God. Many circles of Christianity have led us to believe that certainty and confidence are the proof of true spirituality; questions are discouraged.
But Jesus offered his followers an ongoing conversation—a relationship built around a free, open-ended discussion. Questions were encouraged. They were often impertinent, sometimes alarming, and the religious establishment was distinctly uncomfortable with them … just as it is today.
“40 Loaves is something of a collection of the kinds of questions I felt finally free to ask of myself and of my relationship with Christ,” says Baker. “It’s my belief that these questions are shared by many others who long for the freedom to simply ask them out loud. I hope this book becomes a platform that frees others to search their hearts more deeply and be fed with the Bread of life.”
Each “loaf” here is a big question that stimulates discussion, investigation, and contemplation; it will take hours—or days—to digest. Conversational, inviting, disarming, and real, 40 Loaves nourishes self-examination and offers validation for those who feel discouraged, guilty, or even shamed when the realities of their lives don’t match up with the ideals of the Christian establishment.
C. David Baker founded an award-winning business before redirecting his career to write full-time from his small farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He is the author of eight books, including six novels, one of which was nominated for a Christy Award. He has contributed articles to the Christian History Institute’s international publication Glimpses, and to Christian Singles magazine. Baker has a Master’s degree in theological studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
This was book was provided for review by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Sweet Babies

One of the most fun things about having two little grandbabies so close in age is getting their pictures taken together. The following pictures were taken just this last weekend and I cannot tell you how much joy they give me.

What a little gentleman and sweet lady they are!

Sweet Miss Ava Claire - such a little princess.

I have never known a little boy who loves balls more than this one does!

This one nearly melts my heart-

Poppa especially loves this one of his little cowboy.

The expressions on their faces on this one look like they have been caught - I love it!

But this one . . .

This one nearly does me in everytime I look at it. Forever and ever I will love this picture. The tenderness, the sweetness, the innocence - it embodies everything that is right and good in the world.

Just try and tell me that I'm not the most blessed grandmother in the whole wide world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ornaments, Parties, Decorating and more!

This last weekend we had our annual tree decorating night. It's my favorite tradition of the Christmas season. I wrote all about it a couple of years ago and you can read about it by clicking on the above link. We also did our "sibling" gift exchange since this was the week that all our girls would be home. So we had our family celebration and in spite of the cable man arriving during our dinner to install another satellite connection in the guest room (even though he SAID he would be there in the morning) and the babies being tired and a bit cranky - it was a wonderful evening. I made lasagna for dinner. I made the meat kind of all those who like meat, the non-meat kind for the vegetarian, and the kind without cottage cheese for the one who I thought hated cottage cheese (turns out - he was good with the cottage cheese). I looked for the whole wheat pasta for those who count carbs but the store didn't carry it so we all had regular pasta. I'm not sure how I became a short-order cook LOL!

After dinner we had our gift exchange. The kids all exchange names and it's always so much fun to see what they get.

Here is Michelle proudly displaying her gift - a pair of Toms from her brother-in-law. Toms is a great company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in a third world country for every pair they sell.

Three sisters being a bit silly.

Brad and Michelle brought all of us special gifts from Peru. Michelle gave her sister's fingerless gloves knit by hand from alpaca.
I received a beautiful alpaca scarf:
Some Peruvian hats were gifted as well:

We did things a little bit backwards this year. We opened gifts first and then we decorated the tree. Every year since they were born, I have made my girls a Christmas ornament. This year I found the sweetest one. It is the little Christmas Robin that is at the top of my blog. I have had it there for a while and the girls never suspected it was their ornament! The one in my blog header is not one that I knit - but I found the pattern on Ravelry (my new favorite internet hang-out).

And after the ornaments we told our traditional tale of our first Christmas as a married couple. Here is my husband placing the star on the tree.

The girls putting on their ornaments.

We had a wonderful family evening together that was way too short and has already been filed in the official "Ryan Family Memories".

I have always made a special Christmas ornament for our church board members each year as well. It is just a token of my love and appreciation for our church board and the way they always have taken such good care of us. The hardest part has become finding a new idea to make each year. This year I chose to embroider an ornament. Red work has always fascinated me and I decided to give it a try. So I sketched a simple picture and went to work. I added a red wool felt background with a sparkly red ribbon. I really love the simplicity of it.

And finally, I wanted to share a fun idea I used this year. At our church we sign up to help decorate for Christmas. This year I signed up to do the big tree in the foyer. I wanted it to be fun and special because it is the first tree you see when you enter. I also wanted to do something the children would enjoy. I remembered watching Cinderella and loving the part where the sweet little birds decorate her ballgown. I started researching some ideas on the internet and I came up with this idea:

Jessica helped me by climbing the ladder up to the very high ceiling to attach the birds on fishing line. I never could have climbed that high. But I love how it turned out and it is fun to watch the kids when they see it.

I'm sure your list of things to do by Christmas seems just as daunting as mine does. Just this week alone I have three parties to attend, many gifts to complete, and I haven't even really started shopping. You just gotta' love it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Searching. . .

Over the years it seems to me that I often hear people saying, "It doesn't "feel" like Christmas" or "I just can't seem to get into the Christmas spirit". In fact, those are words I have said myself. For whatever reason I tend to think that flipping the calender page from November to December should fan some Christmas fairy dust over me and immediately put me into a Hallmark Christmas movie mood.

The problem is - that doesn't happen.

As I reflect back over the years of Christmas in my life I have realized something. Memories always hold the best and warmest things and somehow put the "messier" parts of life deeper away - perhaps more of a proper perspective. All the Christmases that I thought were perfect also contained some of the not so pretty parts of life on earth that we all have to deal with. It's just that the memories of those things have faded more than the rest. They don't stand out to me. Just the good stuff remains.

Instead of searching so hard for the "feeling" this year, I think I will just stop. I think instead I will settle for looking at the Christ Child - who is after all, the point. And as life happens around me, I will just keep focused on Him. And trust that Christmas isn't a "feeling" or a "mood".

It is a fact.

A truth.

The surest thing I know.

I don't suppose any of this makes sense to anyone else - but these words have been swirling around in my head today and they had to make their way out. Blogging is a great way of expressing feelings and thoughts but it is so public and we all know there are things that can't be blogged about. So if you read this and think "huh?", well, just know there are words that I can't write. But God is working in my heart and my head and I'm starting to put pieces together, bit by bit.

I hope that you focus on Jesus this season too. If you have any suggestions or ideas you are using to do that, leave me a comment - I would love to read them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Almost Free Magazine Subscriptions

If you are like me and don't like to subscribe to magazines because you can think of a million other ways to spend the $25 subscription price - have I got a deal for you!


Follow this link and you can subscribe to several magazines for a whole year for the total price of $5!!!!

FIVE DOLLARS people! What a fun Christmas gift to give - it's the gift that keeps on giving - every month for a whole year.

I subscribed myself to Southern Living and House Beautiful - two magazines I know I will enjoy. But hurry and do it now because like I said,