Anticipating Christmas – Patience part 4

Ohio’s beautiful trees took their time bursting into fall color this year. My October 22 birthday often comes during peak leaf season, but some years the trees have been bare by then.  We wondered whether 2017 would ever bless us with Autumn’s brilliance. The last day of October passed and as November arrived, our neighborhood was transformed.

I often hear people say that they like the fall season, but not what follows – the cold of winter. While I’d like to keep the days from getting shorter and colder and the beautiful leaves from falling, I’ve turned the calendar page to November and know that December is quickly approaching. And with it, Christmas.

On November 1, some folks gave themselves permission to listen to Christmas music since Halloween is over . These lovers of the holiday season may have groaned when Christmas trees appeared in stores during August, but now eagerly await an acceptable day to put up their own Christmas trees . If their window shades are down, you can bet they’re secretly watching a favorite Christmas movie well before Thanksgiving. I’m not one of those folks, however, I did practice some Christmas music with fellow flutists this week in preparation for performing at church. And I did begin to make plans with our sons and daughter-in-law for a Christmas gathering in December.

At our mall in 2014. I’m in the middle.

When you hear that there are only 48 days until Christmas, how do you feel? Depending on my state of mind, I might feel amazed that the year is passing so quickly, pleased that I already have several gifts purchased, or a bit anxious about all that will need to be done in preparation for December 25. I’m hoping that the mall holds off on playing Christmas music for a few more weeks.  I’d like to enjoy the beauty of November before seeing Christmas lights come on in our neighborhood. Some areas of Ohio have already seen snowflakes, and I know that it won’t be long until they fall. The sparkly winter season will bring its own delight.

Those who have much excitement about getting to Christmas will need some patience as these weeks pass. For some folks, patience will be needed to get through the holiday season. Perhaps life has changed in a way that makes celebrating difficult. There may be memories of happier family Thanksgiving dinners or Christmas festivities that stand in contrast to today’s circumstances. If you’re one of those people, I hope that you will know the peace and presence of God this year and will find a meaningful way to celebrate.

Having grown up in the Christian faith, my family has observed a season of waiting for Christmas called Advent. This year Advent begins on December 3. Beginning that Sunday, Christian church services will include a focus on the anticipation that ancient Israelites had for the prophesied Messiah. They waited, not knowing how long the wait would be. While we may feel impatient for Christmas to arrive each year, we can count down the days with certainty as to when we will commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised One, who came into the world to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)

A second focus of Advent, meaning “coming”, is the birth of Jesus in individual  hearts and lives.  As we sing Joy to the World, we celebrate the Lord’s coming and plead, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Jesus enters into every life circumstance, whether happy or sad, and every home where He is welcome, whether it is extravagantly decorated or very humble.

The third focus of Advent requires much more patience than waiting for December 25. Christian faith includes belief that Jesus was resurrected after his death by crucifixion and ascended into the clouds after appearing to many people. The Bible contains prophecies, including the words of Jesus himself, that He will return to the earth at an appointed time that no one knows except God the Father (see Matthew 24:36). God’s salvation will be completed.

Patient waiting, accompanied by obedience to the one we have believed will be rewarded.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9









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Wedding Words

When Dave and I married in 1984, we set up a tape recorder to capture the songs and words of our ceremony.  Thanks to some digital magic performed by our son Eric since then, we are still able to listen to the recording.  A few weeks ago, we marked 33 years of marriage and are now anticipating Eric’s marriage to Amanda in just a few days.

Dave and I listened to our wedding recording during a recent car ride that was sandwiched between attending our Best Man’s mother’s funeral and taking our sons and future daughter-in-law to a concert.  That may have been more sentimentality than my husband needed in one day!

What fun it was to listen to the love songs of that time.  We were blessed to have the music played by Molly Rondeau and sung by our friend, Julie (Schoenberger) Monk.  I laughed as we drove along, remembering how I forgot to have my mom seated until most of the theme from Ice Castles was over.  Meticulous plans are sometimes forgotten during the excitement of the day!  Dave experienced his own nervousness that day when our participating priest didn’t arrive until just before the ceremony began.

I was definitely paying attention as the first chords of the Bridal March were played.  I took the arm of my 14 year old brother and walked the aisle with a  smile that never gave way to tears.  However, listening to the recording in the car over three decades later, I heard words that caused me to weep with JOY.  Father Missler opened with a blessing, praying, “Increase their faith in you and in each other and, through them, bless your church with Christian children.”  Hearing those words, I suddenly realized that the prayer was answered!  Dave glanced over to see me crying, barely able to say, “He did it!  God did it!”

There was more to come. We repeated our Words of Intention, Dave being cued by the priest, and I following my pastor.  We promised to love, honor, cherish and sustain each other and to be faithful to each other as long as we both shall live.  What we didn’t say is something that I sheepishly tell the wives in my marriage classes about.  When Rev. Steindam previewed the wedding vows with us, I asked if we could leave out the word “obey” since we wouldn’t be bossing each other around!  He consented.  (I cringe when I remember how smart I thought I was at 23 years old.)

Riding along, we listened to Father Missler read from the fifth chapter of Ephesians about wives being submissive to their husbands and husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church.  Rev. Steindam then gave a message describing how two people who were strangers to each other are drawn together in an irresistible way – a gift from above – and how we must not allow commonplace experiences or difficulties to cause us to lose the vision that brought us to this day of commitment.  He finished by challenging us to read the Bible passage from the book of Ephesians many times throughout the years.

My eyes welled up again as I thought with amazement how God has brought us through every life experience to this moment in 2017 when I am honored to share with women in our church what the apostle Paul taught to the believers in Ephesus about a wife’s respect and submission (see A Different Approach for Wives).  Because of Love and Respect Ministries, I have come to better understand why my husband needs respect and how blessed a couple is when they obey God’s instructions for marriage.

On that day in March of 1984, Dave and I lit a unity candle as a “symbol of one new life that has been created out of two lives”.  Praise be to God!  We are His and He has made us one. I eagerly anticipate hearing the joyful music and  the Wedding Words as our son and his beautiful bride marry.  We will pray with them, applaud them, and celebrate with both families as their new life as husband and wife begins.

The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. Psalm 118:23




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On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

As each day passes, I notice fewer and fewer decorations and lights.  Our own Christmas tree will be disassembled and stored in the next day or so. Less gradual was the abrupt change in the song play list at our mall from every version of “White Christmas” ever recorded to “Cheeseburger in Paradise” (I kid you not).  And it’s getting hard to find a cookie or piece of Christmas candy in my house.  I am especially sad that my Pfeffernusse cookies are  gone.

So, on this January 6, the Twelfth Day of Christmas, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite cookies and carols with you.  Think of it as a late Christmas gift, or an early one if you wish.

I made Peppernuts, the English translation of the German recipe, for the first time in December.  I found the recipe in a magazine I had laying around and decided to give it a try. I couldn’t help but notice the similarity of the word Pfeffernusse to my maiden name, Pfeiffer, however, the cookies don’t seem to have been a tradition for my relatives.  They do share many of the spices of my Grandma Pfeiffer’s molasses cookies which are still a family favorite, but they also contain cardamom, ground almonds and, yes, white pepper.  I enjoyed making these crunchy bite-sized cookies and found that I couldn’t eat just one. The flavorful treats stay fresh longer  than most cookies, and I’ve loved grabbing a handful for a snack.  Do they really have to be a seasonal thing?  I don’t think so.  Here is the Pfeffernusse recipe that I used.

Although it’s January 6, I confess that I listened to a disc of Christmas music today.  When I stashed the rest of my seasonal CDs away this week, I couldn’t bear to put my newest one out of sight and out of mind just yet.  Fernando Ortega’s CHRISTMAS SONGS album was such a breath of fresh air compared to the many tired renditions of carols that fill the season.  The beautiful instrumentation and thoughtful treatment of the lyrics brought out deeper appreciation for the true reason we celebrate. Some may not approve of setting a beloved carol to a new melody, but I found Ortega’s rendition of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” to be quite special.  It’s upbeat and hopeful sounding all the way through the last verse.  And the truth of that verse is not constrained to December or outdated 2,017 years after Christ was born of Mary.

How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.





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A Short Post About a Short Poem

While visiting North Dakota this summer, I purchased a book called “Words of Wisdom from the Wise Old Owls of North Dakota”.  Author Sara Widdel Beaudrie has compiled and published stories and poetry from many senior residents of her state.  I was in the gift shop of the zoo in Minot when the book caught my eye.  As I always do, I opened to a random page and began reading what has become a favorite poem.  The 90 year old lady who submitted the poem could not identify the author, however I have been able to track the writing to Evangeline Paterson, a 20th century poet from Ireland.  I hope it blesses you as it has me.

I used to think   —   loving life so greatly   —
That to die would be like leaving a party
Before the end.
Now I know that the party is really happening
Somewhere else;
That the light and the music   —
Escaping in snatches to make the pulse beat and the tempo quicken   —
Come from a long way away.
And I know too that when I get there
The music will never end.


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