Christmas Countdown 2021 Day 3 <3

This month on the Journey Onward blog I am doing a story-telling 25 days of Christmas based on various ornaments on our tree. 

Day 3

Today’s ornament is one our Rachel made from her Sesame Street magazine many Christmas’s ago. The December magazine had some picture squares to cut out and make ornaments. 

I handed her some scissors, glue and whatever construction paper we had in the drawer and the result is a magazine picture of a menorah glued to brown paper with a hole punched slightly off-center for hanging on the tree. To add to the humble nature of this treasure, I must have provided her with some yarn to make a hanger for it. 

As simple as this ornament may seem, it holds a volume of thoughts and memories and stories. 

When I hang this ornament each year, I am taken back to our little girl working on cutting out these squares and fitting them to a background paper. I see her tongue sticking out as she cut and I smile because two of her offspring work with this same kind of concentration. She was quite proud of her work and so the ornaments were hung and continue to be hung year after year. 

The uneven cutting, the inclusion of the actual dotted lines marking where the scissor should have snipped, the globby glue marks under the surface…all of these challenged the perfectionist in me. They remind me of how in things like neatness of projects and choices in clothing and how we kept our rooms (or more accurately didn’t keep our rooms) stretched me as I fought back the part of me that wanted to exert control and gave me strength to let our children be who they were made to be.

To give each child room to be themselves sometimes meant things weren’t the way I wanted them to be. Okay…often…but the space we gave them opened up wide places in our hearts and helped us grow up as we raised them. 

While Rachel was quite young when she made this ornament, a few years down the road and a few houses around the corner, we would find her best friend for a number of years and a friendship that continues through social media. Taryn and her family are Jewish and so Rachel would be invited to share some of the Hanukah festivities. In return Taryn helped decorate the tree and iced sugar cookies and we exchanged gifts for our respective holidays. We learned about each other’s faith in mutual love and respect. 

Over the years, I have learned more about how we are grafted into Taryn’s faith through the blood of Jesus Christ.We have been adopted into this family that God calls Israel. The Old and the New Testament are the same story woven with the promise and the fulfillment that God will live among us and we will be His people. 

Now also, the ornament continues to remind me of Taryn as she works on the front lines of a pandemic in a large city on the East Coast. I say a pray for her as she faces some of the hardest parts of the turmoil and consequences of decisions made during these “unprecedented times.” 

So this unassuming ornament holds a rich assortment of thoughts and prayers and memories. 

How is your tree speaking a story this year? 

If it is perfect and beautiful and worthy of a magazine itself; then this is a gift of beauty you have made and your talents are expressed on each branch. If it holds ornaments that are unashamedly sporting glue and a bit too much glitter, than celebrate the little hands who made this for you. 

I would love to look at each of your trees and oooh and aahhhhh and here your stories, too. 

God bless you my friends.

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Christmas Countdown 2021 Day 2 <3

Well we are only on the second day of the Countdown and my devotion this morning that I have been reading all year spoke about how we err when we “count down” the days til Christmas…sigh…everyone’s a critic. 

His point was that instead of counting down days until the main event, the entire Advent Season IS the event. 

And since I can’t argue my point of defense with him, I shall with you…our Countdown is never to mark days off until the Christmas Eve service, dinner with family and stockings/gift party on the morning of the 25th. 

Our Countdown on the Journey is meant to be a daily celebration of the season Christmas. 

So now that we are clear…

Day 2

This ornament is one I would be handed gingerly every year to place on the tree along with ascending order of sizes representing my sister, mom and dad. 

I say gingerly because the crafter of this little gem (and it is little…less than two inches in diameter) was fashioned from the lid of a tin can. It is both beautiful and dangerous. 

The one who made these for our family is lost to me, have no idea and is one of several questions I wish I could ask my mom about. 

While I do not know its origin, I know its place in my heart. 

It is a reminder of my place in my birth family and a childhood of Christmas’s where shoeboxes of ornaments were pulled out and placed on metal hooks and hung on our tree in a variety of homes around this country. 

It is a lesson in the way traditions of a family can give a child an anchor when other things seem to always be in flux around him or her. 

It is a thread that links this 63 year old grandma back to a school age girl who would sit and gaze at the twinkling lights of that year’s tree and rest in the certainty that no matter what the year has been like, in December we will celebrate the birth of Jesus with the oddest assortment of both mangers and Santa Clause figures…cookies and communion…giving and receiving…bright lights and dark stables…Luke and The Grinch…every year. 

It is a reminder that beauty comes with some dangerous edges and joy and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. Life is filled with both and all ranges in between and joy and sorrow mingled at the Cross where all of who I am is found. It is where all of who you are will be found.

Do you have a special ornament that reminds you of your place in your birth family?

Perhaps you could peer into the tree this year and find that one tucked away this year and thank God for placing you where He did, in the family He did, in the times He did. 

If you are separated from family by choice or death, I pray for God to soften the places that are hurting and bring you comfort and peace. I say a prayer for those who are estranged from their family in any way and I ask for God to bring you restoration with or without a reuniting. 

I understand this pain and I know God is faithful 

<3

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Christmas Countdown 2021 Day 1 <3

For a number of years we have counted down to Christmas together here on the Journey.

As I pondered what our 25 day Count down would look like I imagined one of those fun Advent Calendars where you open a door each day and discover some kind of picture or chocolate treat. 

Instead of doing a devotional approach, I have been praying about how to offer you something that would be different.

YESSSSS!!!! Jesus is the reason for the season, but there are soooooo many people doing devotions that are very good and I want to read some of those myself. If I focus on trying to do any kind of study, I end up not being fed myself as much and you know what…I need to feed my soul and spirit this Christmas from some other teachers. 

So each day I hope you will come and “open the paper window” on a little vignette based on some special ornaments on our tree.

My prayer and the desire of my heart is that it will at least entertain you and at best stir up some of your memories as we sort out the journey to Christmas Day 2021 together. 

Let’s begin…

Day 1 

These two ornaments landed side by side on our tree this year and each has a story. 

The fancy Santa holding his tall tower of presents glitters with all the fun and joy of my collective childhood memories of the best of the traditions of Christmas. He was a gift from Russ’s Aunt Lucille and Uncle Bob one year. The only year I think they gave us such a gift as we usually got a calendar from his insurance agency. 

I love the details of Santa and each package; the colors..the way his hands are just so big and little elves are tucked into the packages and even his hat.

It is fun and joyous and reminds me of the generosity we associate with the better parts of this season.

Whether people are celebrating Jesus’ birth or just caught up in the doings of the holidays, there is a festive sense of good will and kindness on a grander scale than we feel the first eleven months each year. 

There is another memory you cannot see with your eyes. It’s a Christmas Eve gathering with the Reimer side of the family in some little hall in some little town in the middle of Iowa farm country.

A long table holds all manner of potluck dishes and other tables are set with paper plates and folding chairs. The room is filled with chatter as cousins and siblings reconnect. There is eating and coffee being consumed as laughter fills every paneled corner of this rented space.

Our Rachel is running around in the sweetest burgundy velvet dress with a perfect ecru lace collar that I splurged on at the local department store.

She is chasing her second cousin who is several years her senior and not quite as tickled at meeting up with the younger generation of this big family. She keeps calling out “Ewick”…as at three she has trouble with her R’s.

An irony for one who’s initials are R.R….but oh well. 

I also picture Aunt Lucille another earlier year holding this same little girl as an infant. She had been fussing something fierce but in Lucille’s warm arms she fell asleep and I can remember this sweet woman, with her distinctive and beautiful Reimer features, holding our girl with the same facial lines…and smiling into her sleeping face. 

So it’s more than a Santa I see.

I see the family I married into that loved me and I loved them and now so many are gone.

But the memories…they have not faded and those same features are etched into our grandchildren

<3

And then there is the simple nail hanging beside it. 

The nail is one of a set that was sent to us years ago by our Sonja. Married to Russ’s brother we insist on calling her our sister because she surpasses being only a legal relative.

Nine nails in a gift box, each with a red ribbon attached and a story of the Savior whose birth we celebrate.

Every year our kiddos would take three of the nails with their red ribbons and place on the tree. 

They are a reminder as we celebrate the birth of Christ; He was sent for a purpose.

He brought the Kingdom of God to earth and He suffered and then died for our sins and the sin of this fallen world. He was resurrected He ascended and He lives… and so we remember the gift of His salvation every day; and especially during this season. 

Now I place the nails on myself. 

And each year I think of how the years have passed so quickly. 

All the rush and hubbub of creating Christmas memories for our little ones has passed.

They will come at some point, hopefully, and we will enjoy their grown up selves, but the tree that stands and holds the same ornaments year after year speaks a lot of stories to a mom’s heart. 

I wonder if your tree tells some fine stories, too. 

I hope you will stand and gaze into the branches and allow yourself to remember season’s past.

You may need a tissue or four, I know I do…and you may laugh heartily or have a spark of a Christmas past that was kind of painful…but the stories are our journey and they are worth remembering and sharing and lifting up to God as a fragrant offering of thanksgiving. 

I also love that these two parts of Christmas landed next to each other without me even trying. I struggle bringing the Santa/tree/cookies/Miracle on 34th Street magic in line with the simple story of God sending His Son to a poor couple in a manger in Bethlehem.

But I don’t think God struggles.

I think Him coming to live amongst us in our every day lives was the point.

I think He is not threatened by the things that can distract me.

I think He is best found in families and in friends and in homes that are real and messy and trying to make sense of how His Kingdom has invaded our earth and yet we still wait for it’s fulfillment.

Blessings my friends.

See you tomorrow <3

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