Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best Tangible Gift Ever--Revealed

She had been planning this since July.
She kept it secret until Christmas Day.
She spent over 100 dollars on supplies.
She emailed over 25 women to help her.
She made deadlines and extended them for those women. She directed their snail mail to my mom's address.
She spent the night with a friend who's an expert at this kind of gift-making.
She and that friend (Hannah, friends since birth) got little sleep that night, working from dinnertime till around 2 a.m.
She worked on it at my mother's house for hours and hours.
She fooled me into thinking it was a quilt or something like that she was hiding.
She wrapped it in a big, big box under a squishy pillow to add to the trickery on Christmas Eve.
She blessed me more than she'll EVER know. I couldn't hold in my joy--it came out in laughter and tears, on and off for an hour as I opened it.
She's my only daughter, Sarah Grace, to whom none can compare.
She sat beside me on the sofa for the big reveal.

A Friendship Scrapbook !!!

Here it is. I'll post a few pages at a time.

Staring at Page 1....

From Sacha (who did her own page)

and Barb (best friend since 3rd grade when I lived in Kansas)

Isabelle, my French friend and sister in Christ whom I "met" online after Katrina hit)
and my sister-in-law, Pat, also wrote touching letters to me....

My friends Therese and Bonnie shared fond memories. It's the little things people remembered that made me say, "That meant something to her? Wow."

Therese said it best when she described what she hoped I'd feel as I read this scrapbook. "May you curl up in the lap of the God of the Universe, lay your head on His chest, and hear His heart beat just for you."

Bonnie's handwritten, three-page letter is tucked into the lavendar envelope. A sample of it follows...

My friend Sandy Steward (from Ben's lacrosse games) and Danielle (dressed as a cute Norman Rockwell girl at my 40th birthday party)

You can click to enlarge any of the photos. I'll post more soon.

Such love. I can hardly believe this many people love me "Just As I Am." They do a whole lot of overlooking and forgiving, that's for sure. True friends.


I made a deposit today into our Russia trip fund. The current balance is $702-- enough to cover the application cost for one of us. I am so happy!

The wreath sales have brought in nearly $450. (I am still waiting for donations of two people who ordered a wreath.) Some people donated who didn't need a wreath, and a bit of cash came at Christmas. I am so thankful.

Once again I realize God has given us faith for this trip that will cost $6000 plus traveling money for us both to go. Please keep praying.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


My mom is out of the hospital; she was released on Christmas Eve.

We had a wonderful Christmas:

*I received probably the single best present I've ever gotten in my life. Many of you had a LOT to do with it. You know who you are. It deserves its own post, which will happen very soon.

*My side of the family came over last evening. We haven't had what you'd call the traditional dinner for years, for whatever reason, which is fine. No one seems to mind what's on the menu, as long as it includes cookies. So we had a buffet of build-your-own enchiladas (which do look Christmassy with their white flour tortillas, red enchilada sauce and chopped green onion on top), plus some Spanish rice and applesauce. I completely forgot to take pictures of the family at the table. Waaa. I was too busy enjoying them.

*Paul wanted us to open one gift Christmas Eve. Not ordinary. But then again, these weren't ordinary gifts. He had written special notes for each one of us citing his appreciation for the qualities he sees in each of us, and how God is using us. I'm tellin' ya, it was a Hallmark commercial. Very, very special since he seldom speaks, let alone writes, what he really feels in a warm fuzzy way.

*Funniest memory: My dad often uses old-fashioned expressions in his everyday language. We kid him about things like "groovy" and "swell." And he is very "over the top" with verbal appreciation--a gusher, you could say. Well, he opened a generous gift certificate (yes, the paper kind) to Double T from Sarah. He beamed and said to my mom, "My oh my, Brenda, we can really make out there!" To which I said, "Please don't. Just eat."

So then every time they opened a gift card to some restaurant (perfect for their hobby of eating out), someone would say, "Are you gonna make out there, too?" I teased them that I don't really want to read in the Police Beat of the Pennysaver, "Local retired couple caught making out in a string of area restaurants."


Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Things, part 1

A gnarled tree,
Bent by the winds
Seeking the sun.
but not lonely.
Boughs that bow
as if knowing they perform
for only One.
The Producer.

A child's hands.
Soft little fingers curled around an orange crayon,
Studying the next stroke,
Staying in the lines.
Or not.
Boy's fingers in need of a good scrubbing
Most of the time.
My precious artist.

Storm clouds in the evening
Their hush announces the presence of God
in His heaven
Just in case you missed Him
When the sky was blue.

Squirrels frolicking in the trees
Stopping only to notice that winter
Must be coming.
"This playground of mine," says he,
"does not hide me as well as it once did."

"Maybe I should stop playing and get busy looking for
acorns to hide. Or maybe I'll just wait another day.
As for nuts, I think the lady taking this picture of me
is the biggest one around here. She thinks I don't notice
her, but I do."

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Please Pray

My mom is in the hospital. She went to her doctor yesterday because of an irregular heartbeat. He had her admitted to the hospital (not Upper Chesapeake, thankfully). They've put her on a new medicine and must monitor it 36 hours. They are also doing an echo tomorrow and a stress test. She was going to have us over on Christmas Day, but now it looks like we'll need to have the party here, which is fine. Please pray for her and all of us. It's a difficult time (as if there's a good one) to be in the hospital.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

O, Christmas Tree

Well, I had every intention of posting on this blog. Got myself mixed up (easy t0 do). If you want to see our tree , go to my other blog called Kidbits.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Honk if you Love Christmas Shopping

Now that all but one wreath is made that I've promised, I went out today and did the bulk of the Christmas shopping for my three older kids. Joel's was already done. Paul gave me a budget (which is always less than I want to spend but still quite reasonable) and I stuck to it. I made my list and stuck to it. I resolved not to be like everybody else on the highway and in line, and I stuck to it. Almost.

Let me explain. It was all in the perspective I chose this year.

In traffic I did not get impatient, even though at most intersections it took three "rotations" of the light before I got through. I just pretended we were all part of a big club and this is what we do. We form single file parallel lines and stay close together. We have multiple destinations but a single purpose.

When people honked at each other, I chose to think how cool it would be if we could all honk a Christmas carol during our wait times. My van horn is kind of medium-pitched, like a "G' above middle C. Most truck horns are deep,like a bass note; little sports cars hit the higher notes. I'd love to see a used car dealership do this someday--hire a crew to play a holiday tune on their lot, using car horns. I'd pay money to hear "Silent Night" like that one day. Of course, it would be a misnomer.

When I was wandering around perplexed about where "they" keep such-and-such in this particular store (I'm being vague since sometimes my kids read this blog), I was just thankful I had these kids to buy for. I was thankful for a decent budget, and for kids who really don't ask for much.

The only time I had ill feelings was when I was in this same store and was ushered to Register 6 with just three things in hand, but these two women jumped line (actually "staggered" into it with blinders on is more like it--I don't think they realized there WAS a line, or else there were pretending to be oblivious). Between them they had a stack of clothes a good foot and a half high. When the young, clean-shaven cashier was almost finished taking the last shirt off the hanger, one of the women asks him, "Do you have such and such kind of socks?" He says yes and tells her where they are. What a nice guy. (Do you see my tongue lodged solidly in my cheek?) Lady says "Ill be back in a sec. " Well, I don't know what planet she comes from, but on this one, a sec is not time enough to ring up a pack of gum, let alone get out of a line (that one has jumped/staggered into to start with) and go hunt for socks.

She comes back and the package says "7 Socks, 7 Days." Whoa! No kidding. Boy, nowadays companies, not fourth-grade teachers, teach ratios to consumers who can't figure that out on their own. But then again, maybe her kids get 3 days out of 7 pairs of socks. Or maybe they go thru 7 in 3 days."

My mind was not, in case you couldn't deduce, set on things above.

The lady asked if the shirts ever went on sale and the guy says, "Never." What? Buy something not on sale? Are you kidding? But she did. " That'll be $503.44, please." he says to her. I'm thinking 500 bucks is a bit excessive to spend on something that doesn't do the dishes or take out the trash or take pictures of someone taking out the trash.

When she was gone, I was next. The guy says, "How are you today?" Wrong question.

I should just say "fine." My daughter works retail and says she hears all kinds of negative stuff when she just asks, "How are you?"

But I add something like, "I'd be better if those ladies had stood in line. I was called over here and they just slid in ahead of me."

"Oh, really?"

No, I'm making it up just to be nasty, of COURSE REALLY! (That's what I was thinking, but what I said was, "Maybe they didn't realize there was a line.")

Poor kid. He's just a cashier, not a cop. Sometimes I think if I wasn't a mom I would be a cop. Come to think of it, every mom I know is a cop. I've got so much practice maybe I should think about changing careers and actually get paid to be a cop. I'm all about the rules. Not keeping them, just enforcing them. You know, like a good Pharisee. People could call me POP--Pharisee on Patrol. Course, answering to 'Pop" would be mighty, um... weird.

"That'll be eighty-seven dollars and thirty-five cents, please." Pop's mind jolted back into Mom mode. I'm thinking 87 bucks is a bit excessive to spend on something that doesn't do the dishes or take out the trash or take pictures of someone taking out the trash.

But besides my sinful response at that one store, I was a happy Christmas shopper. I was thrilled that cashiers are saying "Merry Christmas" this year. And I am happy that songs which mention Christ the newborn King still dominate the airwaves in malls and on honker-bonker highways.

How about you? How's your perspective today?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I Got Him Good--Twice!

My husband is a hard one to "get" with a practical joke. Nearly impossible to prank. But I am gloating. I got him twice in one week.

First time: Tuesday. Sarah went for her driver's license. I went with her for the 11:00 appointment. She did beautifully. Thanks for praying. She said the parallel parking was easy--the fastest and easiest time she's ever had with it. And the picture on her license is good, too.

So she was perfectly bubbling when we got in the car to come home. I checked my cell phone; had missed 3 calls--all from Paul. "I guess he's eager to hear," I told Sarah.

"Tell him I failed," she said. "He was so nervous for me."
"Want me to?" I felt a prank coming on. Sarah was driving.

Ring, ring. He answers his cell.
Him: "Hello?"
Me: Hi. Did you call me? I had to turn off my phone in the DMV.
Him: Yeh, I wanted to know how Sarah did.
Me (muffling my voice as if pretending not to embarrass Sarah): Um, it wasn't good.
Him: No? Why? What happened? Was it the parallel parking?"
Me: Yeh, she hit the poles.
Him: I can't hear you very well. She hit the pole? Which one, the back one or the front one?
Me (keeping voice low): Both of them.
Him: Both? You're serious? Aw, man, she must've felt terrible.
Me: She was red in the face and wouldn't look at me. You know how she tries not to cry in public.
Him: Bummer. So she hit both poles?
Me: Yeh, coming AND going.
(Sarah is "losing it" at the wheel.)
Him: I can't hear ya. I'll call ya right back.
Sarah (laughing a hearty belly laugh): "Oh, Mom! You got him. Did he have to hang up?"
Me: Yeh, static or something.

(Ring, ring.)
Me: Hey.
Him: So how is she now?
Me: (can't bear it any more, laughing hard, really hard.) I'm kidding. I am totally kidding. She passed with flying colors.

Him (Silence. Then...) You're bad. I'm gonna kill you. You are SO bad.

Next prank: tonight he was cutting his hair in the bathroom. I thought he looked cute, which would have inspired a picture normally, but I wasn't sure how I'd pull it off. So I was putting away clean socks and underwear. I took a bunch of dark pairs and wadded them up sort of camera shaped. (My camera is a heavy-ish digital SLR, so I made my "wad" look like that. )

Then I held my "camera" the way I always do, popped into the bathroom and "shot" him.

Oh, man, he jerked the scissors and comb down so fast, gave me a threatening look, then I said, "Gotcha!" I licked my first two fingers , held them up and said, "Twice! Twice in one week!" Oh, it feels good.

He said if I ever take a picture of him cutting his hair, he'll take a picture of me cleaning our room.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"I Remember When Jesus was a Baby"

How often does a mother think, "I remember when _____ was a baby, he used to ________." Or, when going through ornaments on the tree, seeing "Baby's First Christmas."
Or when handling baby clothes from long ago, thinking, "I remember when he wore this. Can't believe he was ever so little!" My husband's mom, who died 20 days before our wedding, had buried Paul's brother the year before her own death. I wonder if she was remembering the day he was born soon after they told her Gary was dead. He was 33.

I was reading this morning in John 19. Joseph of Aramathea has asked Pilate's permission to take Jesus' body and bury it. Nicodemus joins him, and brings 75 pounds of spices and burial ointments, aloe and such. Can't you just feel their agony as they rub lanolin on the Lamb of God and dab cleansing creams on the deep wounds of their bloody Savior and friend Yeshua?

After they cleaned His body and applied the comforts and sealers for his burial, they wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him a tomb. Linens that must have looked like giant bandages around His torn flesh. Carefully they pulled out the deep thorny wreath from his scalp. They dressed the gouge in his ribs where blood and water had dripped out from the site where the soldier's sword had pierced him. They had to be careful and yet hurry. It was almost sundown. Sabbath was nearly upon them and they couldn't touch a dead body on the sabbath. . In fact this was no ordinary sabbath. This was Passover. They had to get home and prepare for the supper of lamb.

Mary his mother had seen them take down her son's naked body from the cross. What to put on him? Soldiers had already cast lots for his unique purple garment that had no seams. It was woven from top to bottom without a seam. But now it was gone. Sold to the lucky winner wearing Roman armor and carrying a sword. Maybe a blood-tipped sword.

Can you imagine being Jesus' mother Mary and having flashbacks to that evening 33 years before, when she was about to give birth? Her water broke. There was bloody show. She didn't have a lacy white layette for him or a ruffled bedskirt for his crib. His crib was a common, animal-slobbered feed trough, probably splintered from wear. He took His first breath in a barn filled with the very animals He had filled with breath. His mother nursed him--the Bread of Life--and set Him down in a place where young colts and donkeys and sheep took their daily sustenance. Mary probably brushed out the crumbs of grain and prickly hay as best she could between contractions. I remember thinking in the hospital, "This place is so clean. I can't imagine giving birth in any other country." I remember thinking also, "I hope the baby clothes I brought will fit him."

But Mary had no proper baby clothes. She wrapped her infant boy in grave clothes. Linens that accompany last rites. I'm sure it was one of those many things she kept and pondered in her heart. Her baby boy came into this world soaked in blood and water. Her adult son came down from the cross the same way. His swaddling clothes weren't proper for the Son of God, but they were fitting.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Bad, bad typo

No lie. I went online this morning to find the exact documents my daughter will need in order to get her driver's license. Her test is today at 11. (You can pray; she is nervous, especially about the parallel parking.)

I can't help but find typos. I see them in stores, in church, on packaging, in my blogs and everyone else's. I see typos like a neat freak sees something out of place, or an accountant who spots numerical errors on a ledger.

Some typos are hilarious, particularly ones on official sites. Here is what I read on the MVA Maryland website:

""Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) does a pretty good job decimating information, but DMV.ORG goes a step further."

Boy, if they can decimate information, I hate to know what going "a step further" would mean.

They can't even disseminate the right word. That's the government for ya. Trying to impress us with egg on their phace.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


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She is a club member of Operation
Gummi Worms. I took all the kids'
pictures in front of our tree. I loved
Victoria's expression, so decided to
play around with effects on Picasa.
Doesn't this photo have an almost
ethereal, Narnia-like quality?

Chrismakuh or Hanumas?

For those who are curious about "what I am" (Jewish? Messianic? Christian?), I will attempt to answer, as best I can: Jewish by birth,Christian by rebirth. Along with that question "what are you?", others have come up regarding the holidays: what do I/we celebrate this time of year, and why?

Simply, I grew up in a Christian home, but had probably the most ecumenical experiences a Christian young person could have. Here is a nutshell chronology of my "religious" upbringing:

1)Age 5: I was baptized in a Baptist church, attended evangelical Christian school from grade 5-10 (and public schools the other years), with a few years at a Methodist church during my youth.
2) Age 6-10. My dad was ordained Baptist in Missouri, but the only job he could find in the Midwest was at a little United Methodist church in Alden, KS. The two best years of my childhood were spent there. I made two good friends, one who has been lifelong (Barb) and we talk every week. I loved watching my dad in his role as a pastor. He is gifted with a thirst for understanding scripture, he is compassionate, he gives good counsel when asked for it (but doesn't push), is not judgmental, and genuninely loves people.
3) Age 11-14 Back in Maryland, we attended Mt. Zion Methodist Church. Methodist charismatic was a big switch, but I loved it. Our youth leaders were Jim Lilley and his young wife, Sharon. Their daughter, Heather, was 3. Their ministry had a huge impact on me as a young teen. Their love for the Lord and His people was unmistakable. Nothing "churchy" about them. We now attend the same church (they for over 20, us for over 10).

4) Late teens: my family joined Calvary Baptist in Bel Air. I stayed there till I left for college. (Later Paul and I were married there. Twenty years ago this December 28th!)

5) For a short summer of my teens, my parents pushed my older sister and me to attend a Jewish youth group for a while. (Met on Saturdays, I think). I remember little about it except impressions: the kids were mostly rich snobs who never mentioned Jesus (except when cursing) and their lives seemed vain and empty.(No wonder.) Their "services" in the synagogue were formal and dull, but again, I loved the sound of Hebrew sung a capella. At their retreat Rachel and I attended, I saw mostly self-centered worldliness, and their mention of God was mostly in conjunction with either tradition or, again, cursing. I really felt like an outsider. I was. The only thing we had in common was our heritage and big noses. And our love of money, except they had a lot and we didn't.

On Sunday mornings I liked going to our Protestant church. In the evening, Episcopal youth group! Spirit-filled Pentecostal type Episcopalian services in God's country-- Darlington, Maryland, where I met a beautiful Christian girl named Kelly. She was the only believer in her family, until her older sister met the Lord. That's when I first came to get an understanding of genuine, daily life relationship with Jesus, outside my own home, through a couple of women at Grace Episcopal: Nan Connor, Bruce Muller-Thym. (Yes, a woman named Bruce.) I was also a singer in a band this youth group formed in the pastor's garage. We sang mostly Phil Keaggy music, which I love to this day. The leader was the pastor's son, full of sweet godliness. For a while I wanted to marry him.

6) Age 18: Got a good scholarship to a Catholic college in Greensburg, PA. Accepted it. I had no idea that Catholicism was so far removed from what I knew about grace and Jesus. The only time I went "to church" was to Mass was when I felt far from God--and guilty, or when I felt really near to God--and "good" or wanted to hear the Bible being read. (I never saw Catholic girls actually read the Bible, but they heard soundbites of the New Testament from priests.) I also loved the chants sung in Latin, also a language foreign to me that took on a beauty all its own when sung a capella. Great acoustics in the 200-year- old cathedral-like sanctuary only added to the magnificent sounds of music. At first I thought the girls who attended Mass on Saturday were more spiritual, as if they "couldn't wait" to get to church. I thought the slackers went on Sunday. Found out that most girls went to Saturday evening Mass, then partied all Saturday night at the men's college 20 minutes away, then slept in the next day, some hung over. "Doing church" and partying were commonplace. For them and me.

While I was in college, my mom was also --back in Baltimore--getting a master's in Hebrew Studies. I think God gives a lot of people a desire for a specific people group. For me it's the Chinese.I can't explain it. My mom has always had a love and desire for the Jews to know their Messiah. Her grandmother was Jewish but didn't practice her faith because of religious persecution. This grandmother died when my mom's mom (Tola) was only 9. Granny Tola's dad was now a single father raising many children. I don't know all the details, but do know Granny was put into a sort of group Masonic home (Masonic, not Messianic!) while her dad made a living on the road. No Judaism in a Masonic home, for sure!

7) AGe 19: Left Seton Hill after 2 years, homesick and sick of sin. (My own and everyone else's.) Came back to Maryland, got an apartment on 33rd Street in Baltimore with Kelly, my friend from Harford Christian/Grace Episcopal. She moved out after 3 months (country girl couldn't handle city life) but I stayed, found a church, met Paul. By then it was October of 1985. I was 20.

Well, this is getting too long. If you're still with me and asking, "Where does the Judaism come in?" then here it is. The Jewish line is passed down through the mother, back to Sarah and Abraham. So in that sense we are ALL Jewish. If you're a Gentile believer, then according to the Bible, you've been grafted in. ("Grafted in" is symbolized by the gold Messianic sign you can see hanging from the center of the wreath above. I made the wreath for my mom this year.) My parents started attending a Messianic congregation several years ago in Burtonsville, MD. That's a LONG way from where they live. After a while, they began to seek the Lord about forming a local congregation. My dad retired from the government (engineer for the US Army) a few years ago, and right away they planted Ain M'Chitzah (pronounced Ane Muh Heet suh). It means "No Dividing Wall" (between Jews and Gentiles).

They decided to abruptly stop celebrating Christmas as we knew it a few years ago. That hurt us a lot. In fact, it was so ugly I could barely rally my spirits to go over the day after Christmas. But my hubby convinced me that maybe I was the one too steeped in tradition. Maybe I was the legalist. You can be legalistic about the day and time of opening presents, and you're no better off than a Jewish legalist, a Catholic legalist, a Seventh Day Adventist legalist, a Protestant legalist, a New Age legalist. Having the identity of Christian doesn't mean you do holidays "right." I thought it did!

I am not about to abandon celebrating my Savior's birth any sooner than I'll abandon celebrating my Savior's death, resurrection, or ascension. Maybe we'll celebrate differently eventually, but my heart is toward Jesus, if I center it there, by His grace. We have a tree, presents on the 25th, no big dinner (not important to us) ,family over Christmas Eve from Paul's side. During this season ,like all other seasons, we worship Jesus ,thank HIm for coming to us in the flesh and atoning for our sins, not the least of which is legalism in every form. Truth be told, I'd rather make this season about giving gifts, and celebrate the coming of Christ in spring, which is Lambing season. Trying to smash it all together is quite a nutty game. Don't get me worng, I lvoe part of the nuttiness, but the blessing not the stressing kind of nuttiness! I would love to give and get eight gifts of any value, in 8 consecutive days in December. Then I would celebrate the coming of Christ in spring, when He was most likely born. Follow it with Passover, Resurrection, Ascension,and Pentecost. Call THOSE the "happy holidays" and bring gifts to the altar and spread them out to the needy. But I don't see that happening soon.

My parents have us over during Hanukkah. They still love to give gifts, still love to have us over to eat and play games. (We love dreidel now, sort of Jewish poker!) Their traditions are different, and I'm not altogether okay with change, but I am bending. If anyone has a tradition of embracing multiple traditions, it's my family (the one I grew up in). My own children are not as flexible. For better or worse, all they've known is two churches. I hope we're not making snobs of them. But at least they're doctrinally well-grounded and see genuine, daily love for the Lord being lived out around them.

That's all for now. I hope I answered the questions some of you have raised without boring you. ??

Friday, December 08, 2006

Have a Mary Christmas

The past few days I've been reading in John, chapters 8-12. In there is the account of Mary and Martha. I noticed that Martha didn't just run around when Jesus showed up at her house. That was sort of her Type A personality. She ran to meet Jesus after her brother Lazarus died. He was spending a couple extra days away, after being told Lazarus had died. He knew He'd resurrect Lazarus, so was in no hurry to interrupt the ministry in town that God had called Him to. After Martha ran to meet Him, she ran back to the house. Can't you just see her? And where was Mary? Sitting in the house. Martha handled stress by being busy. Mary handled it by resting.

The last several years I had treated the stress of Christmas the same way Martha did. Go, go, go. Run here, run there, wrap, shop, wrap, bake, run, party, bake, run, wrap, party. And that didn't include the biggest time-absorber for me: cards.

Every year I write a poem chronicling our family's highlights and lowlights throughout the year. I do it when the inspiration strikes, which can be anywhere between Nov 30th and December 2oth, give or take. I'd crop pictures for it, take it to Staples for 60 copies, hand address all 60 and mail them by Christmas, or intend to deliver a good third of them to church, only to foget to take them at the last opportunity. Then I realized no one was particularly fazed by not getting their card from me. Some asked, "Are you gonna write your family poem again?" And I realized that was anticipated by some people but certainly didn't shake up their routine in the least. So I sent them out after Christmas and you know what? I didn't melt like Frosty at 50 degrees. In fact, I remember a sense of relief, a huge feeling of "this is better than fine!"

That one small change in routine turned a Martha moment into a Mary one. That way, not only did I cut out the trip to the copier, spent precious time addressing envelopes, stamping them, filling the envelopes with both card and poem, I decided that adding a verse or two to the Chronicle meant I could include what our Christmas/Hanukkah celebrations actually entailed, which then becomes part of the year in review, so to speak, and goes into my scrapbook. Plus a lot of people say they look forward to having more cards come after the hubbub so they have time to appreciate them. I know I like to get cards after Christmas, too.

I don't care what Martha Stewart says. I'd rather be "Mary."

What are you changing this year to have a "Mary" Christmas?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Scott's Wreath

It meant a lot to me to be asked to make a wreath for the Bishops in memory of Scott.

I asked Donna what he liked, and she told me: nature, football, snow, all things Christmas, and Edgar Allan Poe. His football jersey number was 76 at Joppatowne High.

Donna asked for muted fall colors. Beyond that, she trusted me to design something special.

Then came a story of one answered prayer after another. While I'm planning the wreaths I make, I ask God for direction and creativity, and for help with the practicals if a certain component is proving hard to find. Well, I was on my way to Constant Friendship when God said "Try DJ's." (It's in the shopping center with Gabriel Brothers.) So I did. I walked in and described for the 18-19ish looking girl there what I was looking for and told her what I was making.

"I need a little football, something snowy, and something Christmasy. He loved Christmas." She led me straight to the little snowman you see on the wreath. He has a Ravens logo and a Ravens-colored scarf. As it that weren't enough, he is musical. You press the button underneath him and he plays a little Christmas tune. By the way,for those who might not recall, Edgar Allan Poe was a native Baltimorean and wrote a famous poem called "The Raven."

It was perfect. God had directed me to the perfect place for the perfect icon.
While I was talking to this same cashier at DJ's, she told me she had attended Joppatowne High and knew where I could get something else for the wreath: purple beads with helmets strung on them, from the latest pep rally. She even provided the name of a contact at the high school. I drove over there and Ms. Hendricks took me through the art room (where I tried not to gawk at the amazing talent displayed in charcoal drawings) straight to a room where these beads were. As soon as I spotted a purple helmet, I knew I had to have it. She gave me as many as I wanted for free. I practiced writing on a couple, but wasn't happy with them. Finally Paul wrote a good "76" on one of the helmets and I hot glued it on. (You can click on the photo to enlarge details.)

The little bird has such soft feathers. I kept stroking his wings and was reminded of Psalm 91 and the encouragement I've always gotten there. When all around you is only darkness, remember that you are under the shadow of His wing.

And the picture. Laurie posted this great picture of Scott with her post called "Brass Plaques." The colors of the photo were ideal and you can see twinkling lights in the background. Sacha laminated it for me so that it will withstand the weather at the cemetery.

Donna, thank you for trusting me with this special commission. I shed many a tear at my work station and prayed many a prayer that you would find comfort over and over. Truly God took pleasure in this labor of love. I'm so glad you like it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Most Gorgeous Restaurant You've Ever Seen

These are just a few of the 37 tables that women of Chesapeake decorated for the Ladies' Christmas Breakfast. No two were alike, and all were a picture of love. Elegant, classy, creative, colorful, inviting. It's a good thing seats were assigned. Could you imagine if you had to pick your table once you got there? I won't pick favorites, but I can say that I think the two most creative tablescapes were done by Nicole Seitler and Emily Clancy. Nicole's table featured a paper village surrounding tall candles. Each cluster of "townhomes" is a 3-panel Christmas card, complete with curtains in the windows and doorknobs made from brads. Nicole made 7 sets like this using various scrapbook papers and ribbons, rubber stamps and lots of imagination and gave each away as a giftie to her guests.

Emily's tablescape was a sandy beach theme. Seashells and starfish, little message bottles, and a classic sea green table cloth and pretty dishes made her design a Christmas original. Good taste runs in the family. Her mom, Debbie Reyes, set an exquisite table of pinks, golds, and burgundy beauties. Karen Hevesy and Marybeth Hooever decorated a show-stopping table with purples and silvers. Diane Smith and her daughter Kristy and friend Robin did a fun-in-the-winter theme,complete with round mirror as an ice skating rink and ceramic bears skating arm-in-arm (next photo). Daryl decorated one in classic golds. I'm speechless that she would take on the decorating of a table along with the thousand other details she spends months planning.

There were plenty more tables I took pictures of, but not all 37 had been set when I was at church setting mine. I wish I had taken a table tour, but I was busy delivering wreaths. I hope other people got pictures for me!

This year we had 296 women, and about 2/3 were guests. It's one of my three favorite days of the year, I must say. I can't say enough good about it. If I start naming names of everyone who had a large part to play, I'd certainly forget someone. Everything was so well done.

My favorite parts of the day?
1) Seeing Diane there. She has been walking through the valley of the shadow of cancer since the spring and this was her first time back to church in about six months.
2) Having my next door neighbor there. She was so thrilled that I had invited her again this year. She wants to bring co-workers next year.
3) My friend Kathy came along, too. We've been friends for nearly 22 years. She was in my wedding.
4) Laurie's encouraging speech about Emmanuel, "God with us." It came on the heels of a sad, anxiety-filled evening that caused me to ask for your prayers.
5) Hearing nearly 300 women sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!" in harmony. Doesn't get much better than that.
6) Giving Scott's memorial wreath to Donna. She had a good cry. I guess she liked it, she went around showing lots of people.