Holding On to Christmas

The twelves days of Christmas have passed, and retailers have quickly moved on to Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, and Easter (April 1). Only a tiny offering of discounted broken and picked over Christmas merchandise remains. As I was removing our lighted nativity set from the front yard yesterday, a neighbor called out, “Leave it till next year.” By the end of the day, though, our block was devoid of lawn decorations with just a few wreaths and window candles remaining. Another dead Christmas tree had been dragged to the curb. Any day now, our city’s festively illuminated downtown  will return to blocks lit by functional street lights alone.

Owners of artificial Christmas trees have been making hard decisions about when to store away their seasonal living room centerpieces. Ours was disassembled and boxed over almost two weeks ago. I’ve been gradually carrying decorations up to the guest room closet, while strategically leaving some in place: the “winter” village that we both love, the whimsical reindeer plates that look so nice with my wallpaper, and the little evergreen tree, now trimmed with Valentines.

In late November, I was reluctant to rush into the season, while in mid January, I’m happily holding on to the holidays. A friend who is still enjoying her Christmas tree was glad to find some decorations in my home today. With the exception of folks who leave trimmings up all year, most of us will soon be ready to move unencumbered toward spring.

Seasonal norms aside, we can still focus on the Christmas experience as more than decorations and delicacies. I smile as I turn on remaining lights, remembering rushing around the house to get them all plugged in before son Kyle arrived on December 21. Seeing those reindeer plates reminds me of the sweet Saturday morning before Christmas when our sons and daughter-in-law each chose a plate for our brunch of S’mores Pancakes* and bacon. And, while we’ve removed Joseph, Mary, and the Baby from our yard, a small nativity set still graces our dining room, bringing to mind the blessing of being back in my childhood church on Christmas Eve, holding my lit candle and singing Silent Night alongside all of my siblings.

December 24 was a snowy night at Emmanuel U.C.C.

The carols have ceased, gifts are being used, and homes are returning to their everyday look. Still, I wonder if the spirit of the season can remain.  I’ve noticed folks at our mall continuing to be friendlier, at least for now. Sadly, we seem to slip back into our more self-absorbed state as the new year grows older, not taking the time to visit friends or to reach out into our communities as often. January newspapers contain pleas from local help agencies that see a surge of goodwill dwindle after Christmas.

People who do believe in God’s gift of peace and goodwill through the coming of Jesus have a responsibility to show love for Him every day by loving our neighbors. I’m one of those people. I pray that even as the last candles are put away, His light will continue to shine through me throughout the year.

My brunch plate – Vixen

*To make S’mores Pancakes, after pouring your pancake batter onto the skillet or griddle, sprinkle some graham cracker crumbs over each pancake. Turn and finish cooking. Remove when cooked and spread some marshmallow cream on the graham cracker side of a pancake. Then place about 8 milk chocolate chips on top and cover with another hot pancake with graham cracker side down for melted goodness.

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Reviewing & Reviving Resolutions

“I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people. Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.” Those were the last words of my January 3, 2017, blog post.  January 2018 has arrived and I have dared to allow thoughts shared last year to hold me accountable. One year ago I told of five ways I had grown in 2016 and then resolved to continue in that growth.  I haven’t been consistent in all five areas. Perhaps you can relate and will decide to join me in reviewing and possibly reviving our resolutions.

Reviewed Progress:

  1.  Playing the piano: I’m not sure I improved as a pianist, but I did keep at it sporadically. During December, I played from a lesson book of Christmas carols. Then, after our little family finished our gift exchange, I sat down to play “Silent Night” for them. They seemed to appreciate it, so I continued with more carols, played quite imperfectly.  The music prevented that little let-down that comes when there are no more gifts to open.
  2. Memorizing the book of James:  I’ve reviewed James often enough to keep most of it and also put Psalm 103 to heart.
  3. Helping my future daughter-in-law choose her dress: On April 1, she wore that dress as she became Eric’s wife. We have grown closer during holiday gatherings, Easter at their home and Christmas at ours. My husband and I are blessed to be able to worship and eat with them in Columbus from time to time.
  4. Continue to blog: The first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa came in August. I signed on for one more year and kept writing, completing my 75th post on December 27. I’ve added some pages, including Fruit of the Spirit and Printables.
  5. Connect with neighbors at Christmas time: I picked a date and invited the ladies who live on each side of me and across the street to a Christmas brunch. All were available!  I’m thankful for a season when it becomes a priority to visit with friends and family.

I wouldn’t give myself an A+, but progress is progress. In looking through other posts from 2017, I noticed some additional and perhaps more meaningful ways in which I challenged myself and my readers. Putting resolutions in writing increases the likelihood of carrying them out as does sharing the goals with someone else. I’ve realized that posting the commitments on the internet adds an extra sense of responsibility to follow through.

Revived Resolutions:

This list could completely overwhelm me if I sought to complete it in my own strength. In January 2017, I shared the story of a couple who walked In Perfect Step. Seeing their synchronized movement helped me to understand the role and power of the Holy Spirit in my life. My part is to “focus on where He wants to lead, as well as when and how fast we are to move.” My resolutions can be summed up as follows: “link elbows with the Holy Spirit, walk in step with Him, and bear the fruit that is uniquely Christian.











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5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year

During the days between Christmas and January 2nd, I found myself wanting to hold onto the past year.  The holiday season had been full of music, gift giving, and time with family and friends.  The emotional and spiritual mountaintop of Christmas followed by my husband’s birthday and the opening of 2017 were followed by a bit of a letdown.  Life would get back to normal and I felt a little sad.

As the sun set on January 2nd, I hadn’t  made peace with the passage of time and had not made a single New Year’s Resolution.  That’s when the Lord began reminding me of some  things that happened in 2016.  I  jotted down a list of 5 personal accomplishments that were nowhere on the horizon as January began a year ago.

  1. Last January I decided to play the piano that sits silently in our living room.  Using my bit of training and a book of “Kids Songs” left behind by our kids, I played for a few minutes each day.  In February, I plunked out an imperfect performance of Happy Birthday to Eric.  By spring, I could play songs from The Wizard of Oz. The daily practice dwindled through the year, but on December 31, I successfully played Happy Birthday to Dave.
  2. In March, while God was leading me to offer a women’s Bible study on the book of James, I was surprised by the desire and ability to memorize the entire 5 chapters of James!  I could name a poor memory as one of my weaknesses, so I was thrilled to gradually learn the verses and be able to recite the entire book by summer.
  3. In June, my future daughter-in-law invited me to join her mother and sister as they picked out her wedding gown.  I was so touched by the fact that they included me.  It was a joy to watch her model gowns until one of them brought tears to her eyes and I cried along with the three of them.
  4. During August, I was enjoying summer while anticipating  ministry and volunteer activities resuming in the Fall. I asked God if there was anything new that he wanted me to do, and thoughts of beginning a blog began to stir in my heart.  I listed a dozen possible topics and found on-line instructions on how to set up a blog.  I wondered whether it would be difficult to find time to write each week and whether I would enjoy the process of preparing each post.  So far, it has been a joy to seek guidance from the Lord, to think about the best ways to express my thoughts, and to hear that folks appreciate  Thoughts Collected by Lisa.
  5. On December 11, the idea came to me to invite the neighbors who surround me over for a Christmas lunch. I usually talk myself out of such ideas, but this time I immediately contacted the three ladies and found that we could meet that Friday.  It was the first time the four of us were together to enjoy conversation and a meal.  As they were leaving, someone said, “We should make this a tradition.”

In thinking about these 5 Surprising Ways That I Have Grown in the Last Year and wanting to continue to grow this  year, I realize that it is not about me resolving to do more or do better.  It is about continuing to play the piano, to write, and to grow relationships, while being attentive to new opportunities.

I want to look back on 2017 and see that I’m living an abundant life, using the gifts God has given me and blessing people.  Not knowing exactly what that will look like, I resolve to keep my eyes and ears open to how the Lord wants me to live each day.  After all, 365 days lived well will add up to a Happy New Year.

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