The Christmas Tree and Memories

The Christmas Tree.DSC01646

I really don’t know why it’s such a special part of our Christmas celebrating. Maybe because it’s the largest visible item to mark the season? I’m not sure if that’s the reason, but I can say a part of the significance of it comes from all the good memories that surround the Christmas Tree. They come back to me as I sit and look at the lovely decorations collected over the years, my now-5 year old popcorn string (yes, it does keep! I don’t have to string it every year, and my son even stopped snacking on it at least 3 years ago, haha!) So here is my walk down memory lane, if you care to snoop, after we decorated the tree last night:

December 4, around midnight….I’m sitting here watching my sleeping children whom I allowed to drift off as they looked at our job well done on the Christmas tree this year. I’ll carry them to bed later. But now, I’m thinking about our Christmases past, at least the memories that the Tree reminds me of. I laugh about the one year we went and cut trees together with my husband’s family – my mom in law ended up picking the most sparce Charlie Brown Tree you’d ever seen. It was funny. But looked comically great once sprinkled with tinsel and covered in her various decorations. I also remember before that the year my husband was in Afghanistan for Christmas: the kids and I went with his family to cut a tree – with our boxer, Betsy, too. I fell asleep on the way home on my brother-in-law’s shoulder – a bit embarrassed about that when we got home and I’d left a little drool on his shirt.

I remember another year that my husband was home and we’d (well, I had, I guess) picked a ridiculously huge tree – it took up 1/4 of our living room. And my husband even had to cut the branches down in the back so it would sit near the wall enough. And when it came time to take that one down, he opted to saw it up inside the house to make removal easier. Then I also remember the tiny tree we put up in Florida at the vacation home that special Christmas with my mom and dad – and on Christmas day, we all went over to the assisted living for my last year to celebrate the season with my grandparents. Mom and I made lasagna to bake there at the home for a special dinner with them. Grandma talked about that day even up until she passed away in July this past year. She’d still say the same thing whenever it came to her mind: “you remember, Melissa, when you and your mom cooked that wonderful lasagna dinner for Christmas for us in Florida? Those people would pass through the hallway there and smell that good food and just get so jealous of us.” And then she’d smile and laugh. It’s still not come to my heart the full realization that I won’t see them again on this earth. But these memories certainly help.

I remember another year, I think it was last year or the year before, when we had just finished decorating the tree, and it made me think about Jesus’ proclamation that He is the light of the world. The beauty of the tree all glowing and inviting reminded me that Jesus called people to come to His light. So when the decorating was over, we sat together and read that account from the Bible.

I hope this Christmas tradition will continue to draw my children and myself closer together, and closer to the Lord. As I watch them sleeping (I feel I could watch them all night) I also feel the weight and responsibility to raise children who understand the meaning of Christmas and the love of Jesus. And my prayer is that God can use many of these tangible traditions they love to bring life to God’s truths.

So – if you took the time to read this and it reminded you of great Christmas Tree memories, share them with me please!

Sicily Vacation, Part 6 (second to last!)

As I start wrapping up this vacation story, I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I’ll have one last post to make to complete the tale. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it as much as I did writing it out, choosing the photos to share, and remembering the wonderful experiences. I’m so thankful that we had this amazing opportunity. And of course, I’ve got to say that if you are considering a vacation to Sicily, go for it! It’s just such a magical place, so full of old country richness and beauty (and good food, too!)

(journaled after the trip)

IMG_0478” [June 18 was] the first evening we stayed out at the campagna to sleep. And that was super nice! I also love to stay with Mamma and Papa’, but it was so relaxing and more our style to stay out there in the kitchen/house…so it was so wonderful to get to do both. The night air was cooler, IMG_0486I woke up early and first thing made a latte and sat outside where I could hear the chickens and read my Bible in peace. Funny though, I did not get to writing anything that morning. Instead, I made breakfast with the American goodies from the groceries we had gotten on Sigonella base – pancakes and bacon! And Marcello and Elisa came over to enjoy that with us and Francesca and Marco.

We then headed out to another beach, this last day that my husband had with us (June 19th). This time, we went to Arinella. The water was so crystal clear and perfect, with lovely sand, a view of Ortigia across the way, just picturesque. I think that was our favorite beach spot yet.

Arinella, Siracusa

Arinella, Siracusa

Continue reading

Sicily Vacation, Part 1

So I am going to share excerpts and photos from our family vacation this June. It was really fantastic. Okay, yes, we did get to go to an amazing place with amazing family/friends – but I think the key that made this absolutely wonderful can be seen from 3 points:

1) God set it up – the original plan was for the kids and I to go. Then circumstances changed and my husband was able to join us as well.

2) We went without a crammed schedule. Our adventures and days out were well balanced with days in.

3) There was just as much time spent eating as sleeping….okay, that last one is kind of a joke (kind of). But really – the amount of time that we spent enjoying family and conversation and simple things like good food was the majority of the time. The activities and sight-seeing were truly secondary.

So, enough introduction, here’s part 1 – of I’m not sure how many, we’ll see. I won’t share it all, in it’s totality my journaling takes up 18 pages (typed!), but I’ll pick and choose so you can get a very good idea of this magical 2 weeks. Continue reading

Outside, the sun is shining! Inside I feel…

blah! I have not had a serious sinus head-cold/flu/fighting sore throat in a while. But thankfully I feel a little better now. I can sit up, that’s a big step forward.

So that diligence thing: I am stretching in being diligent even when I don’t feel good! I’ve folded laundry, made food, and even did school with the kids. And now, I am going to at least step outside of myself a little more (even though inside I feel like curling up on the couch with a book) and go sit with my son and play legos. Here’s me, letting the sun inside 🙂

Okay, now, tag you’re it. If you had/are having/will probably have soon a ‘blah’ day, what did you do or can you plan to do to let the sun inside?

What’s so cool about snow?

Besides the fact it only can happen when it’s freezing out? Sorry, couldn’t resist ; )  My husband and I were talking about what makes snow better than rain as we walked to town to buy our son a sled. And it’s definitely the playability factor. Snow is fun; snow brings lots of opportunity like sledding, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowballs, and snowmen, igloos, and many more. When was the last time you tried to make a rain-man? It probably didn’t work well, if you did try.

20141226_08244720141226_084134

Snow has substance that rain just doesn’t have. Snow can be held, built, and seen for longer than rain. Rain simply drenches the scenery. Snow completely transforms it. DSCN0119I’m not against the rain. I can enjoy a good rainy day with a book and coffee. But snow days are fun days. Snow can get school canceled, roads closed, and everyone out playing.

So I’m thankful for the snow. And I’m especially thankful for the people I get to spend time with as we enjoy the beauty of this thing God made, this white blanket that covers all that sleeps for winter.

Christmas Gifts

So, Christmas shopping and giving…we have decided this year will be a good transition from the focus of getting to giving for our kids. I’ll confess, last year I overdid the gifts for them, probably in trying to compensate for our first year away from relatives for Christmas in a while. But this year, I want to get us back on track. So to ease into it, we’ve decided to make the giving the main event by working together as a family to buy one present per person. So that means my husband, son, and I will go together to get a gift for my daughter, the kids and hubby will go for one gift for me, etc. I hope this helps the kids to see how to put their hearts into being the giver, just like we did with the shoeboxes.

But speaking of giving, via my sister I saw that we are not the only ones celebrating the giving this year: Noisetrade has some Christmas music they are gifting to people, and with any tips they receive they are donating money to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Go HERE to see that, but I’ve put a song here from the cd for your enjoyment from their free download.

pic to use blog

A Christmas Carol

DSCN0473We are getting to the end of Dicken’s classic, A Christmas Carol. Last night, we finished reading about the ghost of Christmas Present. And when it came time to go to bed, my daughter was upset – I had ended reading on a bad note (I really had just ended at the end of a chapter, which to me makes sense). She was left with the images of the two grotesque children, Want and Ignorance, and the last ghost walking up to Scrooge in the mist and fog. After she described it in her words, I did see that it was a pretty disturbing thought to be left with in light of the jolly tone of the rest of the chapter.

I suggested she think about the rest of the story of their travels we read, not the last part that was pending doom. But what I should have told her was to look forward to how Scrooge, she knows, is going to change and become a better man. That’s one benefit we have of reading stories that are familiar, is we know what will happen in the end. We can have the big picture view.

But then, in light of real-life, I guess looking back is the most helpful, so we can see and hold on to the good things that God does. Now, as a person who trusts in Jesus for my future, I can do both. I can look back on the things that He has worked out for good, and I can look forward to what He has promised.

Now, I am opposed to ignoring the ‘grotesque’ and sad things, the not so nice and ugly (both in books and in real-life). My option would never be to skip over the next chapter, even though it’s dark and not light hearted. I’ll use some wisdom in when I read it, being sure to leave enough time for things to turn around before the kids have to sleep. And the reason is, Charles captures in his contrast of these two things the consequences of our choices. And the opportunity to see them for what they are – and make a turn around when needed like Scrooge did when faced with all of it, the good and bad. Just like I can apply to life: I can look at and learn from the bad and the ugly of events of the past, and make a change when I need it. And hopefully become a better person, too.