Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Card 2012 and The Husband's Christmas Letter

    Merry Christmas from the White Family....

Thanks once again to the marvelous
Emily O. Holmes Paper Lovelies
for our card design!
On another note...

The Husband works for an incredible organization, Pinnacle Bank, that allows him the freedom to send his Christmas reflection to all 750 bank employees each year. It is a special gift that he does not take lightly. I look forward each year to reading what he has written. Here is this year's letter sent just before Christmas:

Christmas Blessing 2012
We are now in the season of “Advent” and with it comes that sense of joyful excitement that Christmas Day is just around the corner.  The word “Advent” itself denotes great anticipation and expectation with the Latin word adventres translated as “coming,” while the Greek word for Advent, parousia, is usually associated with the arrival of royalty.  For us it represents a great sense of “yearning” as we prepare to greet our King.

At the same time, while the traditional sense of excitement and joy is certainly present as we prepare to celebrate one of the two most important (in my opinion) days in history, I must confess that for me there is also a sense of numbness; of sorrow; and lingering mourning which I continue to feel.  Needless to say, the events of last week in Connecticut have shaken people to a level of disbelief possibly never before felt as we contemplate the loss of twenty beautiful young children to a tragic act of both terror and evil that so clearly reflect the fallen state of mankind.  So as I have continued to contemplate these young children and the families who have been devastated by this act, I have begun to realize this is a perfect example of why we celebrate with such great exuberance the birth of the Savior on Christmas Day.  For it is for times such as this that He has come to be among us.  He and He alone is the Master Healer of the wounded of heart; the Prince of Peace; the source of comfort and joy that ultimately supersedes our worldly circumstances.

Born in a obscure village to a peasant woman, Jesus came into our world of pain and suffering through Mary – who suffered the physical agony of childbirth with no pain relief; He was born in the cold of winter with the cleanest thing around Him being the hay covering the floor.  Christmas is about joy, but it is a joy that is reached through and never drifts far from human suffering in a fallen world where this precious Messiah would ultimately redeem our sin and our suffering.  As confusing as it may appear to be, how special it is to know that Jesus came to Earth amidst suffering for the ultimate expressed purpose to suffer because we suffer.  His love for us is so great that His purpose and desire was and is to remove eternal suffering from all who come to Him and proclaim Him as Lord.  As with the recent Connecticut deaths, let us not forget the infanticide that Herod ordered when he killed all male children under the age of two.

It is difficult for me to fathom the transformation which Jesus endured in leaving the glorious perfection of Heaven for a manger in the cold of winter.  Even more so, knowing that his place of birth was prophesied in Micah 5:2 seven centuries prior to this day we celebrate next week – it is indeed amazing that he was willing to leave the glory of paradise to become poor so that we could become rich in eternal things.

In times as we have recently experienced, we may be tempted to cry out to God in anguish and accuse Him of a sense of aloofness – of not answering our questions and our pleas for answers.  And yet we must only look to the story of Lazarus and the confusion which surrounded his death to see two of the most powerful words of the Bible in John 11:35: Jesus wept.  So rather than a sense of separation, we see tears that represent something so different.  While having the power to stop, reverse, or allow any action, God’s wisdom suggests that He keeps specific things from us in order to determine our real trust and faith in Him.  As in the case of Lazarus, He enters into our grief and sorrow as an example of perfect love – showing us that it is okay to have a sense of a broken heart as evidenced by sorrow and weeping.  By His birth on Christmas and living amongst us, He gives us not simply answers to our questions, but much more – He gives us Himself.  He gives us His tears; He gives us His anger at needless tragedy and repudiation of His commands; and most importantly, He gives us His Hope.  In our deepest sense of despair, He offers us not simply consolation, but far greater, He offers us resurrection.

Because Jesus was born into humanity, He opened the door to eternity for each of us.  Let us not be consumed by the gifts – giving and receiving.  Let us not merely celebrate Christmas, but instead know that we are celebrating Christ – the joy of a loving Christ presented to you and me as a gift through the grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father.  I encourage you, in the midst of whatever trial, challenge, or disappointment you face – to hold fast and firm to the joy and wonder and glory of it all – the Emmanuel, God with us!  The Christmas story is the ultimate rescue mission – Jesus coming to earth offering us the opportunity to be free from whatever enslaves us.
“Praise To The King of Kings
You Are My Everything
And I Will Adore You”

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Tradition Kept Strong, The Christmas Brunch

Nanny and Pappy (The Husband's parents) would be so happy to know that we are continuing the family tradition of gathering together with siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews for Christmas brunch. Now that our individual families are growing by leaps and bounds, we have moved the celebration to a Sunday early in December. This year there were twenty-three family members who gathered to celebrate an early Christmas. Nanny and Pappy would have loved the laughter and merriment that ensued. Their hearts would have been made especially glad by the presence of seven great-granddaughters along with the newest family member, a great-grandson! It is a joy to honor Nanny and Pappy by continuing to forge lasting bonds among future generations.

My sister-in-law and her older granddaughter pictured
with our niece and great-niece
There were tables set for wee folks as well as adults!

We are excited to be welcoming this lovely young lady
to our family in the summer!
Arrival of more family!
Little Three loves his Aunt Betta
A bevy of beauties!
Precious nieces!

Loving that delicious brunch!

Thanks as always to my lovely sister-in-law for opening her home to us all!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Wonder of Christmas In Little One's Eyes

The Husband and I took each of the granddaughters to Cheekwood on separate Saturdays during the holidays. It was such a wonderful experience that we hope to make it a "grandparent" tradition. While the weather was chilly and rainy the day that Little Two made her visit, this past Saturday was one of those winter days you dream about. It was a good thing because Little One was literally bursting with energy. Come, share her joy at the wonder of it all!

Little One had so much fun exploring everything in sight!

"I think this is the Troll House," Little One tells me.

She wants to get as close to the water as possible!

"C'mon Pappy, let's go here..." and off she goes!

"Is this a fairy house???" 

Checking out the trains
"Nonna, are you sure I can't go inside the little fence?" 

The sweetest Santa ever. He really listened to each child.
Little One told him her whole name and where she lived.

Decorating cookies with Nonna. The folks at Cheekwood have this down to a science!

Those eyes say it all...the wonder of Christmas as seen by a child...

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Marvelous Wonderful Savior...Come to Earth as a Babe

I never grow tired of marveling over the wonder of it all...

 A Christmas Poem by Christina Rosetti (written 1872, later set to music)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, Whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, Whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Some Children See Him

 Some children see him lily white,
The Baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see him lily white,
With tresses soft and fair.

Some children see him bronzed and brown,
The Lord of Heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see him bronzed and brown,
With dark and heavy hair.

Some children see him almond-eyed,
This Savior whom we kneel beside.
Some children see him almond-eyed
With skin of golden hue.

Some children see him dark as they,
Sweet Mary's Son, to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they,
And ah, they love him, too.

The children in each different place.
Will see the Baby Jesus' face,
Like theirs, but bright with heav'nly grace
And filled with Holy light.

O lay aside each earthly thing,
And with thy heart as offering,
Come worship now the infant King,
'Tis love that's born tonight.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The words to this beloved and oft-sung hymn have never seemed more apropos...
Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel 
Oh, Come, oh, Come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse's stem,
From ev'ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow'r to save;
Bring them in vict'ry through the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

The Treasured Nativity

     For the first twenty-five years that my husband and I were married, I bought something reminiscent of the nativity as a part of our Christmas gift to one another. Thus it is that our home at Christmas is filled with creches. When Christmas is over, I don't even put them all away. Some of them remain in place throughout the year as a perpetual reminder of the "Gift" they represent. Some are ornaments that hang upon the tree; others are fashioned of wood, ceramic, or clay, and one set is made entirely of is perfect for little hands to hold and to move and to place just so over and over again.
Little One and Little Two's favorite creche

    However, my favorite of all the creches is one that unless you know the story is unlikely to draw your attention. Despite is supposed lack of beauty, this particular creche takes center stage in our home and is there to greet you when you open the door to our house; it sits on the entry hall table. It has a base made by one of my children of unfired (basically dried) clay; three little figures made by another of my children (there were once four figures, but sadly, Joseph has completely disintegrated), a banner hand-lettered by yet another child, and finally, a tiny clay plaque made by yet another. In short, it represents the collective efforts of all four of our offspring, but it was not planned to be that way -- it simply happened. 
         The banner is twenty-three years old. I wouldn't trade anything in the world for the "Goly to God in the highest..." Goly was a first grader's way of writing "Glory," but I am sure that God understood exactly what this child of mine was trying to say. Another child lovingly crafted the base which originally was shaped more like a cave and had an overhanging top that has long since broken off. It holds the three figures (there were once four). There is  Mary; she is the figure on the right bending over the tiny figure resting on a bed of clay. It is Baby Jesus but his head is no longer attached to his body and must be carefully positioned or it will roll off on its own. To the left of Jesus and Mary is a lion. When the son who made the figures came home with this nativity with the lion, I had the audacity to ask him, "A lion?" You should learn early never to ask children questions like this, unless you want to immediately be put in your place. I will never forget that he looked at me with something akin to disdain as he said, "Of course, Mommy, the lion goes with the lamb." And so it does. I cried. He patted me. The Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God...they go together, do they not, and indeed, are they not one and the same? Yes, some of the most profound truths come out of the mouth of babes. 
     The final complement to this treasured creche is the little clay plaque in the back: you can barely read it, but in case you can't, I'll tell you: It says, "Jesus I Love You." It was originally supposed to be a cross, an Easter decoration, but when this child brought it home he told me,"I couldn't do the cross, Mommy, I wrote Jesus a letter instead. I thought He might like it better than the cross. I wanted to tell Him thank you." I cried again. He said, "I want it to go with the manger." It was springtime so I asked again, "Do you want me to put it with the Easter things?"  He shook his head firmly. "No, this cross is a letter, and it goes with the manger." 
       How could it be that a child understood something so deep, so powerful, so profound?  How could he grasp at the age of five, the very essence of the cross? How could he know that the cross, the terrible, wondrous cross, is also a letter, an I-love-you letter from a Holy God to His beloved, yet sinful people. 
       So you see perhaps why this tiny fragile nativity holds a place so dear to this mother's heart. Each child of mine made his or her contribution, unplanned unscripted over the course of many years to make it complete. There is a Banner of Love (Goly to God...). A little cave to cradle the Holy Family. A lion to stand guard and to lie down with the lamb.  And finally, a love letter that would and should have been a cross, except that a little boy wanted so much to write this letter to say thank you to Jesus for the cross. And the child knew intuitively that this was no ordinary baby, this was a baby born to die to save us from our sins. Christmas irrevocably linked to Easter. It is no accident that we must become as little children, is it? And once again, I cry, "Lord help my unbelief. Help each of us to believe with the wonder and the certain faith of a child."

    It is my Advent song this year...Merry Christmas!

from the archives

Friday, December 14, 2012

No Easy Answers

 Newtown, Connecticut. 
A dot on the map no more. 
Seared in our hearts and minds this day, the fourteenth of December, two thousand and twelve.
Your population of 27,000 has grown exponentially.
Your children have become our children.
Your loss our loss.

Bear ye one another's burdens 
and so fulfill the law of Christ.
We want you to know that you are not alone. 
We are standing with you.
Shoulder to shoulder.
Knees bent.
Hands raised.

If our hearts feel raw,
we know that yours feel shredded and torn in two.
The unthinkable has happened.

To you and those you love.

Weep with those who weep.
There is One whose heart breaks with yours.
I am running to Him tonight with your name on my lips.

Suffer the little children to come unto me, 
for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
I am the Good Shepherd. 
My sheep know the sound of my voice, 
and I call them out by name.

No one can snatch them out of My Hand.


Those who are His are His forever.

Our prayers are with you.

You are not alone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little One and Little Two Tell All

As narrated by Little One:
     Nonna always has something up her sleeve. I usually try to go along with her plans. I have learned it makes life easier for everyone. 
     She picked me up one day last week and we went back to her house. I was all dressed up in my Christmas clothes. I have a whole series of outfits that Nonna bought on sale last year and I am dressing up in a different one every day. She is very happy when I wear them. She tells me over and over how cute I look. I agree. I think I do look pretty cute.
 Today we made Christmas cookies. It's a tradition. 
I had a lot of fun. Nonna is not one of those neat cooks. 
She always makes a big mess in the kitchen so she doesn't care if I make a big mess either. 
We had flour everywhere. Flour on our hands. Flour on our noses. Even flour on our toeses. 
Nonna laughed really loud when I said that. 

 I am really good at rolling out the dough. 
I put the flour on the rolling pin and roll it around and then I press it down real good with my hands. Then I pick out the cookie cutter I like and press press press it into the dough. 
Then Nonna has to figure out how to scrape it up and put it on the pan. 'She's pretty good at that. Then we shake the sprinkles. I really like that part. 
I shook the jar so hard I used up all the red sprinkles. Nonna just laughed.
I have my technique perfected at this point.
I'm also pretty good at posing, too!

Here is Nonna trying to help me get the dough off of the rolling pin. 
Oops, I guess I didn't use enough flour.
 Hurry up and take the picture, please. I need to get back to work.

We are finished with the cookies but I am making my very own doughballs.  
It's a very important job!

Nonna and I also decorated a gingerbread house. I love it. 
She said more gumdrops went into my tummy than on the house, but I'll never tell.

Now it's Little Two's turn

As narrated by Little Two:
     Nonna and Pappy have been talking about taking me to Cheekwood. They want me to see Santa and some live reindeer. I am not really sure about sitting with a stranger named Santa, but I am excited about seeing some reindeer. 
    Here we go. The reindeer are under this tent outside. They are named Comet and Vixen.

 Wow! I like the reindeer. They have big horns called antlers that look so heavy.
I really don't understand why they don't fall over.
 After we see the reindeer we go inside and stand in this line. I am getting a little nervous.
 I would rather go back outside and look at the reindeer again, but nobody is listening to me.
 I kept thinking, "No, no," but Mommy keeps telling me that everything will be okay. 
 I am not buying it.
 This Santa is one smart cookie. He lets me sit in Momma's lap. 
I really didn't know he was there.
 I am not too happy yet, but this lady is trying really really hard to get me to smile.
 I decide to help her out.
 Whew! Glad that is over. Now I get to go see the trains.
 I like the trains a lot more than Santa. A whole lot more. 
The trains and the reindeer are definitely my favorite things. 
Not Santa. I hope somebody got the message.
 Yep, it's been a long day.
 One last picture of me saying cheese and then I am off for a nap.
After all, a girl has to get her beauty sleep.
This is Little One and Little Two signing off. 
We would wish you a Merry Christmas, but I am
sure that you will be seeing us before then!