Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

Joy to the world! The Lord has come

Let earth receive her King!

Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing!

Joy to you this Christmas!

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Nature sang in 2015 as God blessed us with many memorable outdoor adventures like snowshoeing,

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snow skiing,

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ice skating,

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boating,

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swimming,

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and hiking.

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We delighted in God’s amazing creation while watching Trumpeter swans on the Mississippi River,

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spotting dolphins in the wild in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston,

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feeding wood ducks in the backyard,

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gazing at the gorgeous lilacs

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and the dazzling dahlias at the Arboretum,

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being wowed by a pair of red foxes up on the Gunflint Trail near the Boundary Waters,

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and admiring some of the 18 baby snapping turtles that hatched in our front yard flower bed.

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We tried to subdue some of God’s creatures during our too-close-for-comfort encounters with a snoozing nighthawk,

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bandit raccoons,

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a sleepy bat, an angry squirrel, a peeping goldfinch,

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a topsy-turvey mama snapping turtle, a strong-minded chipmunk and a brave back-to-school mouse that trapped itself inside our basement wall! Eeeek!

We also marveled at God’s wondrous creativity while gazing at the brilliant autumn colors,

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picking juicy apples,

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and plump pumpkins,

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and most recently, while picking a lovely-smelling balsam fir tree to decorate for Christmas.

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Romans 1:20 says,“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Nature clearly points to its wise and powerful Creator. And that lighted Christmas tree in my living room, it points heavenward, toward the Light of the World.

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It points to Jesus, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

May we all join heaven and nature in singing our praises to Him this Christmas and throughout 2016!

Merry Christmas!

 

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A Quiet, Simple Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and I have time to blog because we have no family visiting this Christmas, and no relatives nearby expecting us for dinner.

Of course family isn’t really what we celebrate at Christmas anyway, as much as we dearly love all those grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who have decided against braving a frightfully White Christmas in Minnesota.

No, Christmas is about Jesus, celebrating Him and worshiping Him. Sometimes it’s easier to remember that when Christmas is simpler, quieter, and settled comfortably in a picturesque, snowy white background.

Every year our little family of four worships at our church’s 4 p.m. Christmas Eve candlelight service. The girls love getting all dressed up for the evening. Most years my husband participates in the worship band, playing guitar and sometimes singing. This year he also played the mandolin. The music was beautiful. Reverently the service closed, as is tradition, with everyone singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. Seeing my children’s hopeful faces glowing in the candlelight, that’s my favorite gift.

Back at home, with the pot roast still simmering in the slow cooker, the girls endure posing for a few photos.

 And then they ask — for the 100th time today — if they can open presents. They typically exchange gifts with each other on Christmas Eve. Perhaps someday when they are grown and have families of their own, this tradition will continue.

At dinner we light all five of the Advent candles, and the girls eagerly lead our discussion the story of Jesus’s birth. Linnea wonders about all the many details the Bible doesn’t tell us in this ancient story. A deep thought for an 8-year-old.

Once the dinner dishes are cleared, I mix up some bread dough and tuck it under a towel, letting it rise. The girls like to think of the dough as sleeping when it is rising, so they tell it “goodnight” and blow it kisses. I tell the girls it’s almost time for me to tuck them into bed, too. Already sporting their matching striped pink pajamas, they beg for a story. Of course, I was already planning to read one. 

Tonight we read Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck. Written in 1956, the book was a gift given to us last year by my dear friend Kate. And what a lovely story it is about a son who gives his father, a dairy farmer, a gift they both treasure for years to come. Be sure to read this heartwarming tale!

Next my husband reads the story of Jesus’s birth from Luke 2 and Matthew 1. We talk about favorite Christmas memories and the best gifts ever given or received. Then we ponder together what it would have been like to see Jesus as a baby. My husband decides he’d want to see the angels that appeared to the shepherds and the glory of the Lord that shone around them. Five-year-old Laurel is still pretty sure she doesn’t want to have anything to do with angels. (Click here to read about her recent angel trauma.) Will we ever convince her that real angels help protect her?

After prayers comes bedtime for little girls, and then comes stocking stuffing, cinnamon roll rolling and gift arranging for us grown-ups. As the evening closes, the tree boasts way too many gifts beneath its boughs, and all through the house the smell of cinnamon rolls lingers. 

This is our quiet, simple Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!

Tree Quest 2010

Today’s quest for a Christmas tree felt magical. All the trees were completely laden with snow. Such breathtaking, verdant beauties!

This is the first year we’ve had to shake so much fresh snow off the tree before confirming it was THE one! It was also the first year that my cousin Rachel joined us in the adventure. Thanks for coming, Rae!

Below is a slideshow of my photos from the quest. Merry Christmas!

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O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust in God unchangingly.
O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!
How richly God has decked thee!

How It Glistens

The fresh snow on our next-door neighbors’ tree this morning — with a little emphasis added — looks so peaceful.

What a snowfall we’ve had in the last 24+ hours. Of course it comes on a weekend already packed with a piano recital, company party, and church dinner — just to name a few activities. Yet somehow we managed to squeeze in a trip to see the movie Tangled, which was wonderful. We all loved it!

Peace to you this weekend!

“I Knew She’d Love it!”

Linnea knew she’d love it!

The middle of January is drawing near, and I am supposed to be writing my Christmas thank-you notes. Actually, by now I think I am supposed to have already mailed my thank-you notes. 

To be exact, I’ve only put off writing my thank yous on paper until now. I’ve written them in my head over and over! I keep pondering the lovely, heartfelt gifts my family and I received this Christmas, and I feel so loved. Of course, I don’t usually write a note for every single gift I receive, especially if I’ve already thanked the gift-giver in person. But you know how it is. Some gifts are given with such love, thoughtfulness and effort, that you simply must express your gratitude thoroughly in writing! 

Anyone who knows me well knows that gift giving is one of my love languages. It’s how I show loved ones that I know them and care for them and treasure them dearly. 

I knew she'd love it!

 

I knew she'd love it!

 

I knew she'd love it!
I knew she'd love it!

 So I suppose the reverse is true to some degree; receiving good gifts is one way I feel loved because it shows that I am known and someone cares for and treasures me, too.

My oldest daughter, Linnea, shares this love language as well. She is constantly giving gifts to me, her father, her sister, and nearly anyone else within reach. She loves to give! And she often gives good gifts: a baby toy for a friend with a new baby, a toy cell phone for her little sister who loves talk and pretend, and a sweet song for her daddy who loves anything musical.  

This Christmas Linnea gave me a beautiful silver bracelet with three shiny silver charms; one says “joy,” which is Linnea’s middle name, another says “hope,” which is Laurel’s middle name, and the third one says, “Mom.” She picked out the charms all by herself, and according to my husband, the store clerk nearly broke down and bawled when Linnea told her the significance of the charms she selected. What a sweetie! 

Also, in her Friday art class, Linnea made me the cutest, most colorful little “pinch pot” with a lid. 

Linnea knew I'd love it!

 

What a treasure! I store my bracelet and earrings in it every night. 

Did you know that giving good gifts is related to the Golden Rule? In fact, Matthew 7:9-12 says, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” 

Ultimately, the greatest Gift-Giver is God. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift if from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” 

So in light of that verse, this is my thank-you note to God for some of the good, perfect and memorable gifts He has graciously given me and for which I am ever so thankful. 

Thank You, Father, for these gifts You knew I’d love. Thank You for… 

1. a smile that reveals what she didn’t for Christmas – teeth 

thank You

 

2. Christmas doodling by a 4-year-old who just rediscovered markers 

thank You

 

3. hot tea in a tiny teacup prepared just for me by a very lady-like 7-year-old 

thank You

 

4. groggy hugs just after naptime from a cuddly 4-year-old 

5. cozy storytimes together with a favorite book and two favorite bears 

thank You

 

6. warm, delicious home-cooked meals and uplifting conversations shared with very dear friends in Minnesota and in Iowa 

7. gleeful cries near the Advent Calendar day after day 

8. the feel and fragrance of a carefully selected Balsam Fir 

thank You

 

9. delicate little fingers plinking out “Away in a Manager” on the piano 

thank You

 

1o. little secrets that slip innocently from the lips of a 4-year-old overjoyed about buying a gift for her daddy 

11. little secrets that are broadcast loudly, yet innocently, from the observant lips of a 4-year-old who likes when packages arrive at the door 

thank You

 

12. carefully crafted gifts from the creative hands of a 7-year-old 

thank You

 

13. a deeply heartfelt “Oh, thank you, Mommy!” from a 4-year-old receiving her own copy of a treasured book 

14. the sweet little exchange of gifts between to very loving sisters on Christmas Eve 

thank You

 

15. the giddy, child-like excitement in a grown man receiving the latest accessory for his guitar  

16. the giddy, child-like excitement of a grown man heading off to pull an ice house onto a frozen lake 

17. the sweet creamy taste of homemade chocolate fudge 

18. the glow of Christmas lights crusted over with snow 

thank You

 

19. finding and catching up with very dear old friends who live far, far away 

20. and snow falling on snow falling on snow falling on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and many days thereafter 

thank You

 

I think I hear God saying, “I knew she’d love it!”

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

We’ve been getting in the Christmas spirit around here. Since returning from our action-packed trip south in November (which I promise to post about later), we have:

played outside in the lightly falling snow,

rode a tractor-drawn wagon to hunt for a tree,

found the perfect tree,

smiled about finding the perfect tree,

lighted the perfect tree,

trimmed the perfect tree,

posed for a photo in front of the tree despite questionable nap hair,

hunted for candy canes,

sipped hot chocolate,

guzzled hot chocolate,

served hot chocolate,

taken a horse-drawn wagon ride, which would have been a sleigh ride if it had been AFTER the blizzard,

gotten all dressed up  to go see Cinderella live at the Children’s Theatre in Minneapolis,

endured our first blizzard of the season (sorry, it was way too cold to document with a photograph)

performed “Away in a Manger” on piano at the local nursing home,

and sung “Away in a Manger” for the local nursing home residents.

Whew! It’s no wonder we’re tired!