Tag Archives: Christmas

When Christmas Knocks on the Door

Boxwood Wreath and Tartan Bow

During the Christmas holidays, I cannot help but think about my Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob—two people who have had a tremendous impact on my personal and spiritual life. This family provided a stable, comfortable and Christian home during a very tumultuous time in my life. They shared their faith with me in so many ways. Most importantly they lived it.

Christmas at the Massengill’s home in Brookhaven, Mississippi, was my very favorite time and remains to be some of my fondest memories. I was always invited to stay the week before Christmas as my mother worked up until Christmas Eve. I looked forward to spending time with my cousins, Karen and Robb, and to being a part of this family.

The days leading up to December 25th were full of busyness but what I remember most was delivering presents to friends and neighbors. It seemed to me as though there were hundreds of houses to visit and gifts to exchange.

Gifts

We never left the house to run an errand that we didn’t include a stop or two along the way to drop off “a little something.” And the back doorbell to their house never stopped ringing as neighbor after neighbor brought over treats or gifts.

goodies to deliver

This community-wide gift giving was what I really looked forward to perhaps even more than the gifts I would receive on Christmas morning. I was blessed to be a part of this special family.

This tradition of delivering gifts to friends and neighbors in the few days before Christmas has become one of my favorite parts of Christmas as an adult. I remember several years ago that I decided to make a meal rather than sweet treats for each of my friends and deliver it during those last few hectic days before Christmas.

Delivering goodies

I loved driving around Charleston dropping off these gifts. I often caught the recipient off-guard. There is such an intimacy experienced when you step into someone’s home especially when you have surprised them with your visit and disarmed them with a gift.

These unexpected visits resulted in slowing down and breathing…capturing a moment of peace and joy…showing love to and receiving it from others….

It was an opportunity to experience the real meaning of Christmas.

Have you had an opportunity to slow down and experience the real meaning of Christmas?

Today's activity

Our Home for the Holidays

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

Whew! I have finally gotten my home decorated for Christmas. It has been a long process this year, for a number of reasons, but at least this part of the preparations is finished. I wasn’t too bothered by the delay since we will be at home for the holidays. Yaay!

This box sat in my entry hall for almost a week.

Box of Christmas Decorations (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

A “display” of Christmas decorations waiting to be placed.

I love vintage-style ornaments and decorations.

Tiny Ornaments

Tinsel

Little Tree Decorated Several of my favorite ornaments survived from my childhood like this Santa. I guess it actually is vintage.

Does that mean that I’m vintage?

Childhood Santa Ornament

Air Stream Christmas Pillow I love the idea of air stream trailers but I’m not sure living in one in the snow would be quite as cozy as this pillow suggests.

My real passion is tartan (and not just for Christmas decorations). I suppose it has something to do with my Scottish ancestry but, whatever the reason, I am mad for plaid as is evidenced here.

Tartan Bagpiper Nutcracker

Springer Spaniel with Tartan Boxes

Kilt Figurine

Tartan and Greens

Tartan Santa with Sheep

My new favorite Christmas decoration is the “Joy” banner my friend Elisabeth Hunter made for me–tartan fabric, of course. She is one of the few people who truly gets my obsession for all things tartan.

Mantle with Greens, Candles and Joys

Mantle with greens, candles and tartan joy

Joy Upclose

Joy up close

You will notice in the creche below that the baby Jesus is not included. He won’t make his debut until Christmas morning. We also don’t place the three wise men at the manger until Epiphany on January 6th. We move them around the house to symbolize their journey to the Christ child. I included them in this photo because it looked too sparse without them.

Nativity

Bowl full of ornaments

One of our most treasured items for Christmas is the Advent stockings I made for my daughter when she was two years old.

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings up close

Small additions and repairs have been made over the years.

Throughout the year I find little things to put in each stocking. I also include a Bible verse. Even at 17, my daughter still loves the tradition of opening one stocking each morning for the 24 days leading up to Christmas.

Handmade Advent stocking

Somehow I even managed to decorate the front porch this year.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Photo by Amy Watson Smith, December 2013)

Wellies with Greens Pine Cones in Galvanized Tub

Santa Please Stop Here

“Santa please stop at my house”

This wreath is made from preserved boxwood. I bought mine locally for Christmas 2012 and it is still just as lovely. Click here if you want to learn how to preserve boxwood.

Boxwood Wreath and Tartan Bow

Now that the decorating is done, I have to finish my shopping, start baking and wrap all of my presents . . . .

Oh, and maybe I will make some time for this as well.

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

What are your favorite decorations and traditions for Christmas?

Wishing you a joyous and peaceful Christmas!

Angels we have heard on high

G L O R I A

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Fear Not”: Bringing Good News This Christmas

Sheperds in the field

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”   (Luke 2: 8-14, ESV)

Fear not. . . I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Such a simple message.

Fear not.

Good news.

Great joy.

For all people.

Savior.

Christ the Lord.

But I manage to forget this simple message every year at Christmas. No wait . . . I manage to lose the message every day . . . every hour . . . .

And if I forget the real message of Christmas, I who know it and believe it and try to live into it, then how can I share the same message with those who have not heard, who do not know it or do not believe it?

Fear takes over once again. And I lose grip on those last two phrases.

Savior. Christ the Lord.

He is the Good News. He has come to save–to save me from my fear and forgetfulness and mistrust and unbelief and guilt and . . . .

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Amen.

 

Christmas decorations?

How to Let Go of Perfectionism This Christmas

I have always been somewhat of a perfectionist. And I suppose that Christmas has always been my showcase. Every year I try to out do myself attempting to balance tradition and creativity.

I have never been over-the-top with decorations or gifts. That’s just not my style. But I always have an idea of what I think Christmas should be like and each year I spend a tremendous amount of time and energy trying to surpass my own standards.

This year has been no different…well, except for the fact that nothing is going as planned!

This what my living room looks like right this very moment.

Ceiling repair

This is not exactly what I had in mind for this year’s Christmas decorations.

I had to let go of perfectionism this Christmas.

The work we had planned to have done on our ceiling earlier this fall was delayed. And delayed. And delayed.

Last week as soon as we bought our Christmas tree and put it in the stand, our contractor called to say he could fit in our repair. We decided to hold off on decorating the tree or putting up any other decorations in the living room until the job was complete–three days at most we were told. We moved all of our decorative objects into the dining room for safety.

Another call. Another delay.

My teenage daughter complains that it doesn’t feel like Christmas without any decorations. I agree.

Finally yesterday work began on fixing the two holes cut in our ceiling when the hot water heater exploded several months ago (that story is for another day). It isn’t a very big job–just sheet rock and painting.

This is what my ceiling looks like now.

ceiling

I am so excited! I am hopeful that it will be finished in a few days and then we can finally decorate.

But in the meantime I will just have to be satisfied with a carload of Christmas decorations waiting to be unloaded. Where else was I going to put them?

Car decorations 1

At least my car is decorated!

Car decorations 2

 

How to Prepare for Christmas

How is it possible that even though it is only December 3rd, I am already behind on Christmas? Okay, so that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly feel that way.

Joy tartan banner by Elisabeth Hunter $15

Just to be clear, this is the only decoration I have up yet!

Maybe it’s because Christmas decorations began arriving in stores before Halloween. Maybe it has something to do with my favorite radio station playing only Christmas songs by the second week in November. Maybe it’s because half of my neighborhood had Christmas decorations up by Thanksgiving day.

Whatever the cause, I am beginning to panic.

December is a big month for my family as my daughter and husband both have birthdays on either side of Jesus’. It’s hard to compete with that…

In my sane moments, I try to remind myself that we aren’t actually even in the Christmas season. This is Advent. The time for preparation: preparing our hearts for the birth of our Savior.

If I allow myself to slow down, breath and think about this–Advent–the panic fades and peace returns.

This pre-Christmas season is not really about decorating my house like never before or buying presents I can’t really afford or going to as many parties as possible. When I focus on these things, that is when I feel overwhelmed, anxious and, frankly, sad.

I can never, on my own, create (or recreate) what I imagine to be the perfect Christmas.

Will I, this year, be able to resist the urge to scurry and buy and do and make merry? Will I be able to slow down long enough to prepare my heart for Jesus? I pray this for myself and I pray this for you, my friend.

Blessings and peace to you during this season of Advent.

Handmade Advent stockings up close

Handmade Advent stockings made for my daughter c. 1998

Handmade Advent stockings hanging

Handmade Advent stockings hanging Christmas 2012. I have not gotten them up yet this year!

 

Bee Smitten #2: Banner Celebrations

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter

I am writing today about one of my favorite things made by one of my favorite people: celebration banners by Elisabeth Hunter (Charleston, South Carolina).

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter $35

Merry Christmas banner by Elisabeth Hunter $35

Just in time for the holidays, these hand-made banners are perfect for gifts or for decorating your own home.

I was so excited to see the brown paper package at my doorstep yesterday afternoon!

Joy comes in brown paper packages tied up with string / Photo by Amy Watson Smith

Joy comes in brown paper packages tied up with string

I suppose I should have bought this as a gift for someone else but I just couldn’t resist the tartan plaid.

Joy tartan banner / Photo by Amy Watson Smith

Joy banner with English springer spaniels / Photo by Amy Watson Smith

Even Hattie and Chester were filled with joy!

I asked Elisabeth to tell me a bit more about how she got started making these banners. Her story follows below.

“I grew up watching my Mom and Grandmother sew (and occasionally helping) but had never tackled a project on my own.

After [my first child] Henry was born, I was a stay-at-home Mama for the first time (I’d been a work-from-home-newlywed for the previous two years) and I found that after the newborn stage passed, I craved a creative outlet.  I got a sewing machine and for my nephew’s first birthday, I made him a birthday banner. It remains one of my favorites.  For the following year I gave birthday banners to many friends and family members.

I had put my sewing machine up (when sewing it lives on our dining room table or in the middle of our den) in early 2011, but in July we got George’s diagnosis* and I pulled it back out. I needed a distraction from Web MD and sewing provided it.  I sewed compulsively for the next 3 months while waiting to move to Boston for his birth.

I go through phases where I tire of the mess it makes in the middle of our house but it’s hard to stop myself from buying pretty fabric when I see it.  I’ve enjoyed making holiday banners this year because it gives me a little bit of focus … and selling them makes this a hobby that pays for itself and gives me money to indulge my insatiable appetite for classic children’s clothes.”

*I am saving George’s amazing story for a later post.

Happy Birthday banner by Elisabeth Hunter $35

Pricing for the banners is based on the banner’s length.  Short ones like “Boo!” or “JOY” are $15, longer ones “Thankful”, “Grateful”, “Give Thanks”, “Believe” are $25 and long ones “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Birthday” are $35.  Prices include shipping in a padded envelope. To add a name to a birthday banner, please add $10.

To order one of Elisabeth’s banners, email her at hunter.elisabeth@gmail.com.

All photos are by Elisabeth Hunter unless otherwise specified.